Merkley Unveils Wildfire Plan: U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) wants to create a $1 billion fund to help curb catastrophic wildfires across the American West. The billion-dollar U.S. Forest Service fund is part of a plan Merkley debuted May 29 to get the feds working with local governments in places at risk to burn. Last year, over 890,000 acres burned in Oregon, and made unhealthy air quality commonplace in Portland. Nationwide in 2017, 71,500 fires scorched 10 million acres, the second-highest figure in history. "We must do more to reduce the risk of catastrophic blazes," Merkley's office said. "We can accomplish this by investing in more fuels reduction, empowering local communities, and expanding opportunities to collaborate."
Tenant Screening Plan Might Survive Court Challenge: Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly gets a long-awaited hearing this week on her revised ordinance to regulate the way landlords screen tenants. Her goal: ensuring that renters with criminal backgrounds aren't excluded from housing. But will it hold up in court? Landlords hate it. But the ordinance has "a low to moderate risk of being invalidated" by a lawsuit, according to a May 20 legal analysis by city attorneys. Eudaly has revised the ordinance in recent weeks to reduce the risk of being sued, the memo makes clear, but city attorneys also warn that losing in court could prove costly: "If the city were to lose a suit based on a federal constitutional challenge, it would face liability for attorney's fees…[and] such fees could be substantial." Eudaly's office says the legal analysis supports their proposal.
Portland Diamond Project Balks: Portland's bid for a Major League Baseball stadium is stalling for time. Last November, the Portland Diamond Project signed an agreement with the Port of Portland for the potential redevelopment of Terminal 2, at 3556 NW Front Ave. The agreement called for PDP to begin making quarterly option payments to the port May 29, with a scheduled first payment of $375,000. On May 28, however, PDP said it would instead extend the original 180-day due diligence period by six months, paying $37,500 each month. Questions about zoning, transportation and environmental liability on the 45.5-acre site remain unanswered, as do larger questions about whether a team is available and PDP's backers have the money to pay for it all. "We feel comfortable extending the timeline," the port said in a statement.
Prison Flu Lawsuit Will Go To Trial: Relatives of a Beaverton woman who died from complications of the flu she caught in prison are poised to get their day in court. Tina Ferri died in 2018; she had not received a flu vaccine ("A Bug in the System," WW, March 28, 2018). Her estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections. This month, the family offered to settle the case for $100,000—with one-quarter of that sum dedicated to a program that buys children's books for a visitors' area where incarcerated mothers play with their kids. State officials would also have been required to acknowledge the prison changed its vaccination policies and practices because Ferri died. The prison did change some of its practices, by more widely advertising the availability of vaccine during the last flu season, but it has not said those changes were a direct result of Ferri's death. ODOC rejected the settlement offer and countered with a proposal of $25,000 without any acknowledgement of wrongdoing. The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 13.