Murmurs: Candidate and NAACP Leader Tussle

In other news: AT&T charges customers for a tax it won't pay.

Candidate and NAACP Leader Tussle: Albert Lee, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in next year's Democratic primary, got in a scrap at a Sept. 28 meeting of the NAACP of Portland at Lloyd Center. Lee, who identifies as black Korean, says he criticized the leadership of NAACP first vice president E.D. Mondainé. In return, Lee says, Mondainé threatened him physically—and Mondainé's nephew grabbed Lee's phone so he couldn't record the confrontation. "I have no confidence in the leadership of the organization, have strong concerns regarding the lack of transparency and oversight of the finances, and am shocked and offended by the president's actions towards me," Lee says. Mondainé says he doesn't know what Lee's talking about. "I'm a peaceful man," Mondainé says. "I don't make a habit of threatening people."

AT&T Charges Customers for Tax It Won't Pay: In August, an AT&T cellphone customer alerted WW that the carrier was passing along the Portland Clean Energy Tax to users ("Charges May Apply," WW, Aug. 28, 2019). Turns out such charges are unwarranted. The city's Revenue Bureau, which is in charge of collecting the new tax, classifies cellphone providers as utilities—and utilities are exempt from the tax, which is levied on retailers with $500,000 in sales in Portland and more than $1 billion nationally. The definition of which utility companies qualify as retailers remains somewhat unclear. Meanwhile, Scott Karter, a manager in the Revenue Bureau, says it's up to companies to decide whether to repay monies they've collected from customers. "The code does not specifically address amounts that might be over-collected from customers," Karter says. AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.

Carbon Cap Could Land on Ballot: Environmental advocates are resorting to the tried-and-true practice of threatening to go to the ballot with legislation that didn't make it out of Salem. In this case, they could present voters with two climate change ballot measures after the Legislature failed to pass a carbon cap earlier this year. Renew Oregon, representing a coalition of environmental groups, submitted three initiative petitions for next year that would implement parts of failed House Bill 2020. (Republican senators fled the state in June to block HB 2020, and Senate Democrats ultimately conceded they didn't have the votes to pass the cap.) One initiative petition would reduce emissions by 100 percent by 2050. Another would require all electricity to be generated without carbon emissions by 2045; an alternative version would set the same electricity benchmarks but include requirements for utilities to invest in electric car charging and electric heating.

Parrish Goes Back to School: Someone recently started a Facebook page directing voters to "Draft Julie Parrish for Secretary of State." But the former four-term Republican state representative from West Linn is heading in a different direction: She recently started classes at the Willamette University College of Law. Parrish says she didn't build the Facebook page and would prefer to work behind the scenes on campaigns than run herself. "If we [Republicans] don't find a decent candidate, I might throw my name in there," Parrish says, "but the wars I'm likely to be involved in the future are in the courtroom." The Democratic field for secretary of state is robust, with Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Terrebonne, state Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton and state Rep. Jennifer Williamson of Portland competing. The most frequently mentioned GOP possibility is former state Rep. Rich Vial of Hillsboro, who is now deputy secretary of state.