Murmurs: Ghost Kitchens Ghost Portland

In other news: Planned Parenthood Advocates gets interim leader.

A Reef vessel served Wendy's burgers. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

GHOST KITCHENS GHOST PORTLAND: The Miami ghost kitchen company that scattered trucks across Portland shortly before the pandemic and received over $1 billion from overseas investors appears to have called it quits in Portland. Reef Technology closed most, if not all, of its remaining ghost kitchens across the city last week. That’s according to two former employees, landlords of parking lots where Reef parked its trucks, records from Multnomah County health officials, and a scouring of Reef’s now-unavailable brands on food delivery apps. A WW cover story found that Reef’s rollout in Portland was a rocky one that included run-ins with the health department and anemic profits (“Ghosted,” Dec. 26, 20222). At its height, the company operated 26 trucks in Portland from which it served various brands of fast food. Nearly all the trucks have vanished, and the company’s brands are no longer available on food delivery apps. The last Reef truck at Park the Carts, a food truck pod along Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, is leaving imminently, says pod owner Angela Park: “They just signed a whole year lease a week ago. And then they just canceled it.” Reef spokesman Mason Harrison did not respond to multiple texts, phone calls and emails seeking comment from the company.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD ADVOCATES GETS INTERIM LEADER: It’s a fraught time for reproductive health in the United States. Although Oregon has strong protections for abortion, Pro-Choice Oregon shut down last month after 50 years. Lawmakers are considering House Bill 2002, which would strengthen protections and insurance coverage for abortions and gender-affirming care, but the state’s leading political force in that arena, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, is leaderless since executive director An Do became Gov. Tina Kotek’s communications director in January. Stepping into the breach: former House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), who will serve as interim director until the organization replaces Do. “It’s a critical time for reproductive health in Oregon and in the nation,” Williamson says. “Planned Parenthood Advocates is the only organization solely focused on that policy area in Oregon.”

HOMICIDES CONTINUE TO DROP: Portland set a homicide record last year. This year is shaping up very differently. By the end of February, Portland had seen 10 homicides. Last year saw nearly double the homicides in that time: 19. The number of shootings also dropped significantly—by one-third. Seattle and San Francisco have not had similar turnarounds in 2023. In a February call with Multnomah County leaders, Portland head of community safety Mike Myers said the city was pursuing “a public health approach to reducing violence in Portland,” noting that gun violence in the city occurs almost entirely among young Black men and homeless men between the ages of 30 and 55. Myers said he’d been hiring “public health people” from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations, and credited the drop in violence to efforts to “change the conditions in which people live.” In recent months, the city has showered law and code enforcement on portions of Old Town and 82nd Avenue that were hot spots for violence. “The early data is promising, and we will continue to monitor—but our work is far from done,” Mayor Ted Wheeler’s spokesman tells WW.

TREASURY’S EXPOSURE TO SHAKY BANKS MINIMAL: The Oregon State Treasury oversees the investment of more than $90 billion in pension funds and manages the state’s cash balances and payments, which involves the flow of billions of dollars annually in and out of banks. The failure of one of the biggest on the West Coast—Silicon Valley Bank—and the dire straits of two other leading institutions—First Republic Bank of San Francisco and Credit Suisse—have roiled financial markets. Treasury spokeswoman Amy Bates says her agency did not have deposits with any of the three troubled banks. Oregon pension funds did hold some stock in each of the three (worth a little less than $4 million as of March 20), but the holdings are insignificant in the context of Treasury’s total investments. “Protecting beneficiaries’ retirements is Treasurer [Tobias] Read’s highest priority,” Bates says. “He is proud of the work that Treasury’s investment team has done to ensure that the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund remains stable in all market environments while generating returns for both current and future retirees.”

POLICE STILL HAVE NO POLICY FOR GANG LABELING: In 2018, the City Auditor’s Office issued a pair of reports critical of the Portland Police Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team. The team has since been disbanded, replaced first by the short-lived Gun Violence Reduction Team and then the Enhanced Community Safety Team and Focused Intervention Teams, which still exist. That shouldn’t free the bureau from addressing the auditor’s concerns, however, the office noted in its latest report, published March 21. It found the city was still not doing a good job safeguarding the civil liberties of people the bureau believes are associated with gangs. Although the city eliminated its Most Active Gang Member list, it still tracks gang affiliations—and continues to have no documented procedures for when it can use and disseminate those affiliations. The city recently commissioned a study, based on interviews with PPB officers, that claimed the bureau had identified 30 different groups at risk for violence, with over 1,000 members. The audit also noticed a disturbing drop in its dedicated gun violence teams’ clearance rates. The latest iteration, the Community Safety Team, cleared only 20% of shooting investigations begun in 2021. Last year, it set a goal of clearing 45% of nonfatal shootings.

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