LIGHT RAIL BATTLE RESUMES ON COLUMBIA RIVER BRIDGE: Early talks on the next Columbia River bridge have hit the same snag that sank the last one: light rail. Earlier this month, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer told WW that a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia would need to include a light rail line or it wouldn’t be funded by the Biden administration. In an April 21 op-ed published on a conservative-leaning news site, Clark County Today, three Republican lawmakers in Washington state—including Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler—voiced renewed skepticism. “This same stubborn, top-down attitude effectively killed the last I-5 bridge replacement effort,’' Herrera Beutler said. Light rail opponents in Clark County pulled the plug on the $175 million Columbia River Crossing in 2013. “As someone who opposed the failed [CRC] project because it became more about extending light rail and less about reducing freeway congestion and increasing freight mobility,” said state Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), “I believe it would be foolish to go down that road again.” Blumenauer tells WW: “I support the regional leaders and process to replace the bridge and incorporate high-capacity transit. For me, light rail would be the preferred option because the Biden administration and our leadership in Congress are focused on equity and climate concerns. I have confidence that the region will make the right decision for our future.”
ELIJAH WARREN’S STORY SPURS REFORM: The Oregon House passed nine bills April 26 that increase oversight of police. Among them: House Bill 2929, which requires a police officer to report another officer’s misconduct. On the House floor, Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas), who sponsored the bill and chairs the Judiciary Committee, cited as inspiration a WW story about a Portland police officer hitting Black homeowner Elijah Warren in the head from behind with a baton when he complained about tear gas seeping into his Southeast Portland home (“Who Hit Elijah Warren?” WW, Sept. 30, 2020). “Had officers not intervened, Mr. Warren could’ve been hurt much worse. But had other officers reported that officer’s misconduct earlier, Mr. Warren may have never been struck,” Bynum said. “Mr. Warren deserves better policing and deserves more from all of us.” HB 2929 now moves to the Senate.
GOVERNOR SHUTS DOWN INDOOR DINING AGAIN: As COVID-19 cases surge across Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown again shifted the rules April 27 to ensure that 15 Oregon counties with high case counts must shut down indoor dining and gyms—but only for three weeks at most. Among the counties at “extreme risk” are Multnomah, Clackamas and Columbia, but not Washington County. Indoor dining in Portland last reopened on Feb. 12. This time, Brown announced $20 million to support businesses in extreme risk counties; she raised the cap on the number of outdoor diners a business can host from 50 to 100 and will reevaluate risk levels weekly instead of biweekly. The 15 counties will remain rated as extreme risk only if they continue to have high case counts and statewide hospitalizations increase by more than 15% as well as remain above 300 total cases. “With new COVID-19 variants widespread in so many of our communities,” Gov. Brown says, “it will take all of us working together to bring this back under control.”
MAYOR HOPES TO EXPEL REEDIE: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has called on Reed College to expel a senior if he’s convicted of smashing downtown windows, including those at the Oregon Historical Society, on April 16. Theodore Matthee-O’Brien, 22, a Reed anthropology major, faces seven felony charges—four for rioting and three for first-degree criminal mischief—stemming from property destruction in downtown Portland. “One of the individuals arrested is a student at one of the nation’s most expensive, elite, private universities that happens to be located in our community,” Wheeler said. “If that individual is convicted, I hope he’s expelled.” Reed College spokesman Kevin Myers says the school can’t comment on the conduct of individual students but that a disciplinary process could not begin until a student’s court case is resolved. Adds Myers, “Reed condemns vandalism in Portland.”