Murmurs: Commissioner Proposes Combining Police, Sheriff’s Office

In other news: Candidate's husband leaves state.

(Chris Nesseth)

COMMISSIONER PROPOSES COMBINING POLICE, SHERIFF'S OFFICE: As numerous groups and elected officials ponder how to reform the Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran last week made public one of the ideas that many officials have discussed privately: folding PPB into the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. Meieran voiced the idea at a meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council. The rationale: The two agencies have many duplicative functions, and the county already covers prosecution, jailing and post-incarceration supervision, as well as mental health and addiction services and public health functions that overlap with police work. Meieran says such a reorganization could occur as part of the charter reform work the city is commencing. "In the context of deep community safety systems reform, it's time to seriously consider dissolving PPB and potentially bringing the work of law enforcement to the county, which has a much broader, integrated, upstream and holistic approach toward public health, safety and justice," Meieran says. Mayor Ted Wheeler, who oversees PPB, is interested. "I remain intrigued by the idea of a merger and am pleased that Commissioner Meieran is interested in significant structural changes," Wheeler says.

CANDIDATE'S HUSBAND LEAVES STATE: Republican secretary of state nominee Kim Thatcher's husband moved out of Oregon this summer. Records show Karl Thatcher gave his wife, state Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), $575 in campaign contributions, listing a Washington address where he is now registered to vote. Thatcher says her husband moved for businesses reasons and to help with grandchildren in Washington. "We are expanding business operations in Washington," says Thatcher, who has represented Keizer in the Capitol since 2005, and whose opponent is state Sen. Shemia Fagan (D-East Portland). "We also considered how important it was for one of us to be up there as full time as possible to help our daughter, who has 11-month-old twins, and had a very difficult pregnancy, and helping her manage all four kids during the COVID restrictions that Washington has." Kim Thatcher says she has no plans to move to Washington, but instead expects her husband to return once his grandparenting services for their daughter are no longer needed.

RIGHT-WING BRAWLER TOESE JAILED: Multnomah County Circuit Judge Kathleen Dailey sentenced Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, a regular at Portland Proud Boys rallies, to six months in jail on Oct. 20 after he violated conditions of his probation. In January, Toese pleaded guilty to assault for punching a man on a Northeast Portland sidewalk in 2018. As part of his parole agreement, Toese agreed to not attend protests in Multnomah County for two years. The court on Tuesday found Toese "in willful violation of [his] probation" after he attended an Aug. 23 rally in downtown Portland in blatant defiance of his parole agreement. Toese has been held in the Multnomah County Jail since Sept. 1 after a judge issued an arrest warrant. The court imposed a six-month sentence and will credit Toese with time served. His release is slated around March 2021.

LAWMAKERS, CITY CONSIDER BUYING MOTELS: Two lawmakers, state Reps. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland) and Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland), are pitching a bold proposition to the Legislature's Emergency Board on Oct. 23: They want to spend $65 million in state money to buy up low-cost motels around the state. COVID-19 and wildfires have exacerbated Oregon's homeless crisis, and fires destroyed thousands of homes—2,500 in Marsh's district alone. At the same time, the drop in travel has slammed the hospitality industry, leaving some lodging owners desperate to sell. Marsh says during the pandemic, traditional congregate shelters in gyms or churches aren't an option, and buying at low prices rather than renting space makes long-term sense. "We think there is an opportunity to give some owners a way out," Marsh says. "And in the long term, if you add a kitchenette, it can become transitional housing or used in a different way." On a separate track, Mayor Ted Wheeler says the Portland Housing Bureau and Prosper Portland are also exploring buying distressed hotels and motels. "We have to be creative and innovative," Wheeler says, "and consider partnerships."

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