Murmurs: Rose Quarter Project Turns Thorny

In other news: Portland Community College makes a land grab.

ROSE QUARTER PROJECT TURNS THORNY: A Nov. 6 meeting of stakeholders in the Oregon Department of Transportation's proposed $450 million expansion of Interstate 5 at the Rose Quarter went sideways. Such groups as Portland Public Schools, Albina Vision, Metro and the city of Portland want the project to include more environmental and community benefits and believed ODOT had committed to a full-blown environmental impact study after a series of meetings earlier this year. But new Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Bob Van Brocklin appeared last week to back away from that commitment and suggested the OTC would vote next month to proceed with the project as planned, according to four people who attended the meeting. That led to harsh words. Stakeholders are dismayed and vow resistance. PPS board member Julia Brim Edwards declined to comment on the substance of the meeting but says, "We're not going to get run over." ODOT declined to comment.

PCC MAKES A LAND GRAB: For a decade, Portland Community College has sought to expand its presence in Columbia County, most recently with a $27.5 million apprentice training center near the new Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center adjacent to the Scappoose airport. But a lawsuit filed Nov. 5 says negotiations over a 17-acre parcel nearby, owned by SPB Holdings LLC, fell apart after the parties agreed on a deal but SPB "reneged on the agreement and refused to close." PCC now proposes to condemn the land and pay SPB $3.19 million for it. Kate Chester, a PCC spokeswoman, says it's "unusual" for the college to use its power of eminent domain. SPB's attorney didn't respond to a request for comment.

HEALTH CARE GIANT PROPOSES FIX: Health Share, the monopoly provider of Medicaid services to low-income Oregonians in the Portland region, has taken a big step toward fixing chronic problems with its transport of members to and from medical appointments ("Hell on Wheels," WW, Oct. 30, 2019). Health Share filed a plan of correction with the state and pledged to meet benchmarks for improved performance. "We know the current model isn't delivering for patients," said Dr. Maggie Bennington-Davis, chief medical officer at Health Share. "We are confident these changes will better meet our members' needs."

WEED VAPES WAIT FOR DAY IN COURT: As convenience store shelves get restocked with flavored e-cigarettes across the state, cannabis dispensaries remain barren of flavored vape cartridges. Both tobacco retailers and a cannabis company sued the state to halt a ban of flavored vaping products by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. But while the Oregon Court of Appeals granted the e-cigarette industry a stay on the ban within 24 hours, cannabis plaintiffs haven't heard back in 13 days. That's not a hopeful sign, says Andrew DeWeese, one of the lawyers who filed the cannabis lawsuit. "It sure doesn't fill me with a lot of optimism," says DeWeese. "Our point is, we've shown irreparable harm, and if it's not addressed, that harm will happen."

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