EIGHT COUNTIES SEEK TO REOPEN: Officials from eight Oregon counties—Douglas, Coos, Curry, Jackson, Josephine, Umatilla, Harney, and Baker—are asking Gov. Kate Brown to allow most nonessential businesses to reopen. Last week, Brown asked counties to send plans for gradual reopening from COVID-19 shutdowns. Many counties seeking a faster timetable for reopening are on the Oregon Coast, which has been hobbled by layoffs because of its reliance on tourism. In their request to the governor, Baker County officials cited the fact the county has no cases, and provided a plan for phased reopening and monitoring any surge in COVID-19. Under the plan, restaurants could reopen at half capacity two weeks after the governor gives the green light. "Given current data trends, we would expect that the first areas of the state that could be eligible to begin the process of reopening will be in rural Oregon," says Brown spokeswoman Liz Merah. "This will be dependent on detailed plans."
CITY TO CLOSE SOME STREETS TO CARS: After initial reluctance, Portland city officials are preparing to ban cars from some streets to create walking and biking boulevards during the summer of COVID-19. The Portland Bureau of Transportation says it will begin installing temporary barricades to close selected residential streets, allowing people to stroll 6 feet apart from each other. The idea has already been implemented in Seattle and Oakland. PBOT hasn't said which streets it will close. "Our streets belong to all of us," says Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, "and these improvements will allow us to safely walk, bike and roll through the city."
BOTTLEDROP LANDLORD DEPLOYS ARMED GUARDS: A dispute over crowds at a BottleDrop center in North Portland has escalated. With grocery stores not required to accept returnable cans and bottles until June, lines of impoverished people are bringing bags of empties to a facility run by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative at a Delta Park shopping center. On April 27, the BottleDrop's landlord, TMT Development, fenced off a vacant lot where people were lining up to return cans, and sent armed security guards to prevent them from queuing in the parking lot and in front of nearby businesses. TMT Development CEO Vanessa Sturgeon says the company needed to step in to prevent drug dealing and fights. "We regret that it's come to this, but we've been left with no choice due to OBRC's inaction," Sturgeon says. Jules Bailey, chief stewardship officer for OBRC, says TMT's guards are acting aggressively. "It may be that by making it harder for people to access their cash, the landlord is hoping they'll just go away," he says. "But their security guards are causing chaos."
SHIELDS GIVES BIG CHECKS TO HOMELESS SERVICES MEASURE: Former Oregon state Sen. Chip Shields has contributed $320,000 to the campaign for Measure 26-210, the Metro homeless services tax on the May 19 ballot. Shields, whose family owns Missouri-based Schaeffer's Specialized Lubricants, has been a generous benefactor to left-wing causes and candidates—including $15,000 to recall state Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) this year—but the Measure 26-210 donations are more than he's given before, making him the largest single contributor to the yes campaign. "I've always known him as someone who steps up for the underdog," says Angela Martin, the campaign's director.