EX-CITY GOLF BOSS TAKES A MULLIGAN: Portland's fraud hotline has paid dividends for the City Auditor's Office. An early call tipped the office to a cozy arrangement for John Zoller, former longtime director of the city's troubled golf program, which is part of Portland Parks & Recreation. Zoller retired in 2018, after 31 years in charge of the city's five golf courses, which a 2019 audit found were bleeding cash. After his retirement, Zoller came back to work on what was supposed to be a limited assignment through December 2018. Instead, he worked without supervision until October 2019—nearly doubling the $26,000 he was supposed to be paid. "The working retirement lacked justification," an auditor's report on Zoller's assignment found. "The retiree did not have a supervisor and had sole discretion over what to record as hours worked." A cover story last year ("Parks and Wreck," WW, July 17, 2019) found that the bureau has deep-rooted financial problems of its own. In response to the new report, Parks & Rec pledged to obey city rules.
DEATHS ON THE SIDEWALKS: Portland's wave of traffic deaths has continued into the new year, with seven people killed by cars since Jan. 1. That's on pace to match last year's 50 traffic fatalities—and includes a bleak new factor. Twice this year, Portland drivers struck people apparently sleeping on sidewalks. The first death was Jan. 24, when a man near Montavilla backed out of his driveway and unintentionally ran over a woman sleeping on the sidewalk. On Feb. 14, a truck pulled into the parking lot of a Sellwood-Moreland convenience store and ran over a man lying on the sidewalk. Police tell WW they have "reason to believe he may have slept outside at times." No arrests were made in either incident.
PAMPLIN COVERED IN RED INK: The Internal Revenue Service earlier this month filed a $1.15 million tax lien against Oregon Publication Acquisition Corp., a company controlled by Robert Pamplin Jr., long known as one of Portland's wealthiest men and owner of the Portland Tribune and 23 other Oregon newspapers. Mark Garber, president of the Pamplin Media Group, says a drop in advertising sales last year hurt operations, leading to cost cutting and an online paywall. Garber says those subscriptions have more than doubled, allowing a partial restoration of cuts and putting the company in a position to cover its obligations. "Thanks to the extraordinary support of our readers," Garber says, "we are well on our way to paying these deferred taxes." Financial struggles have affected the entire newspaper industry, leading to the closure of 1 in 5 newspapers over the past 15 years, according to a recent University of North Carolina study.
BLOOMBERG BUYS TV TIME IN PORTLAND: Seeing visions of Michael Bloomberg? It's not your imagination—the former New York City mayor has purchased time to air 22 ads on local TV stations. Bloomberg is trying to get the attention of voters across the Columbia in Washington state, where the Democratic primary is March 10. So he's already spent $2.96 million on TV ad buys in the Portland market, according to figures tracked by FiveThirtyEight.com. The only other candidate buying TV time in Portland? Bloomberg's fellow billionaire, Tom Steyer, who has spent a comparatively modest $28,000 on two spots. On Feb. 18, Bloomberg became the biggest spender on traditional media in presidential campaign history, spending $338.7 million.