STATE TROOPERS CALM PROTEST ZONE: Portland protests took on a decidedly gentler tone after Oregon State Police replaced federal agents surrounding the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse beginning July 30. The shift followed last week's announcement by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that she had reached an agreement with Vice President Mike Pence to begin a "phased withdrawal" of federal agents from the city. For the first time in weeks, law enforcement did not deploy tear gas or crowd control munitions at demonstrators. Protesters and politicians alike took notice: "After national coverage of these tactics, President Trump retreated, withdrawing his federal agents from Portland," U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution on Aug. 4. "The protests since have been peaceful celebrations focused on the message of the [Black Lives Matter] movement." During that same hearing, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued federal agents were needed in Portland to stop protesters from destroying the federal courthouse. "If we hadn't intervened," Graham said, "they'd have burned the goddamn thing down."
PARENT COMPLAINS ABOUT COMCAST INTERNET SPEED: A parent and advocate has filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice against the cable company Comcast over internet service being provided to low-income students in partnership with Portland Public Schools. The complaint, filed with the DOJ's Consumer Complaints Division by Linda Nezbeda, alleges the company is advertising a Comcast Internet Essentials program that doesn't provide adequate data speeds for online instruction, particularly for families with more than one child. "In each instance it creates an opportunity to sell new plans to new customers while using vulnerable children/families during challenging times. And in cases where families couldn't afford it, completely removes their children from online learning as they lost their internet." Comcast spokesperson Amy Keiter tells WW "the complaint is replete with inaccuracies."
SICK PORTLANDERS AREN'T SAYING WHERE THEY'VE BEEN: Up to 15% of Multnomah County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 shared no contacts with the county, Dr. Jennifer Vines, county health officer, said Aug. 3. That's a problem for public health officials trying to trace contacts with infected people. "That could genuinely be because they've taken precautions and they don't have contacts," Vines said, "or it could be because they declined to talk to public health." But health officials have struggled to trace cases. For the week ending July 25, 54% of Multnomah County's COVID-19 cases could not be traced to another case, far short of the benchmarks set by state officials to reopen counties.
OPPONENTS CHALLENGE METRO BALLOT TITLE: Opponents of the multibillion-dollar transportation funding measure that the Metro Council referred to voters in November filed a ballot title challenge July 31 in Multnomah County Circuit Court. The opponents, who include more than a dozen business groups in the region, argue the ballot title does not accurately represent the taxing mechanism, a 0.75% tax on payrolls of entities that employ 25 or more workers (state and local governments are exempt). "What Metro's measure proposes is a wage-based payroll tax," opponents say in their filing. "Metro's ballot title instead uses the term 'business tax' in an apparent attempt to make its proposal more palatable to voters. But Oregon law does not permit a measure's proponents to inaccurately represent a measure's effects for political advantage." Metro declined to comment.
BALLOTS DUE FOR AUG. 11 ELECTION: Ballots in this month's special election to fill late City Commissioner Nick Fish's seat must be received by 8 pm Aug. 11 to be counted. Dan Ryan, the former executive director of the educational nonprofit All Hands Raised faces former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. WW endorses Ryan in the contest.