Murmurs: Fire Union Picks Gonzalez Over Hardesty

In other news: Lack of public defenders worsens.

FIRE UNION PICKS GONZALEZ OVER HARDESTY: The union that represents Portland firefighters voted Sept. 12 to endorse Rene Gonzalez over incumbent City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, whose bureau portfolio includes Portland Fire & Rescue. That’s a significant defeat for Hardesty, who’s long been an outspoken advocate for labor rights and has overseen the fire bureau for two years. Hardesty’s campaign manager, the Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, responded to the snub in a statement: “It’s disappointing to see labor organizations endorse a candidate who has publicly disparaged unions.” President Isaac McLennan of the Portland Firefighters Association tells WW Hardesty did not make time to meet with the union for an endorsement interview. Hardesty’s campaign says the interview conflicted with a vote Hardesty is preparing to make that will affect the union. Santos-Lyons says Hardesty “believes it is inappropriate to seek a political endorsement” while the city is negotiating a “complex fire union request.”

LACK OF PUBLIC DEFENDERS WORSENS: Multnomah County’s public defender shortage is only getting more acute, recent data shows. As of Sept. 13, 1,058 defendants in Multnomah County who were eligible to be represented by a court-appointed attorney did not have one, according to a state dashboard. That’s the second-highest daily total since the state created the dashboard in mid-August. The highest was Sept. 12—the day before. The shortage of defenders has caused headaches for prosecutors. Deputy district attorney Eric Palmer cited two recent cases where charges were dropped because no defense lawyer was available. Both involved criminal activity around Dawson Park, the subject of this week’s cover story. In one, a woman accused a man of shoving her head into a doorframe after soliciting sex acts at the Dawson Park bus stop. In another, officers patrolling the neighborhood found a loaded Glock 9 mm pistol in a car owned by a man with a felony conviction. Oregon Chief Justice Martha L. Walters recently dissolved the commission that oversees the state’s Office of Public Defense Services after expressing frustration over the agency’s handling of the crisis. “[The] issue needs to remain front and center as we continue to work on systemic issues within our current public defense system,” she said.

AUTO DEALERS RIDE WITH JOHNSON: Running for governor without a party affiliation, former state Sen. Betsy Johnson can’t duplicate the enormous contributions that national governors associations are making to the major-party nominees, Republican Christine Drazan and Democrat Tina Kotek. (Kotek reported a $500,000 donation from the Democratic Governors Association on Sept. 1.) So Johnson has tapped her own sources for outsized checks: business tycoons. The latest ($100,000 on Aug. 12) comes from Gee Automotive, a Washington-based auto sales company whose departments include the nine Ron Tonkin dealerships in the Portland area. CEO Ryan Gee, who lives in Seattle and Spokane, could not immediately be reached for comment. Johnson’s campaign declined to comment.

NORTHWEST PORTLAND FEARS THE BEAVERS: The Oregon State University Beavers are off to a fast start this football season, and they’re bringing the tailgate party to…Portland’s Alphabet District? The Beavs face Montana State University on Sept. 17 at Providence Park—the stadium that typically holds Portland Timbers and Thorns matches. Think that sounds like a parking nightmare? You’re not alone. The Northwest District Association sent out an alert to surrounding residents earlier this month: “Attendees are likely to be less knowledgeable and efficient in their travel and parking habits than typical soccer season ticket holders and attendees,” the email read. “It is expected that a higher % of attendees will drive to the game and search for limited local on-street and off-street parking options.” The association added that it’s not aware of any specific plans by the city or TriMet to deal with the influx of fans, other than the typical “major event” protocol. Neither TriMet nor the Portland Bureau of Transportation responded to a request for comment.

CANDIDATES GONE WILD IS BACK: Does this election season seem a little dreary? We’ll take care of that. WW is bringing back Candidates Gone Wild, a variety show that lets office-seekers slip out of their khakis and unknot their bow ties to compete in a talent show and pretend to laugh at their own foibles. WW has resurrected the irreverent event—last thrown in 2016—with a mission to demystify politics, make voting more fun, and support local journalism. Trail Blazers legend Terry Porter hosts. Storm Large will show up. Jo Ann Hardesty and Rene Gonzalez have confirmed. It’s Oct. 17 at Revolution Hall. Get tickets here.