Murmurs: County Measures Show Cash Disparities

In other news: New report shows drop in violent crime.

Ana del Rocio is on the May 16 ballot. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

COUNTY MEASURES SHOW CASH DISPARITIES: Multnomah County campaign contribution limits that went into effect in 2021 are having a marked impact on the May 16 county commissioner race between Portland School Board member Julia Brim-Edwards and former nonprofit leader Ana del Rocío. (A third candidate, Albert Kaufman, isn’t raising money.) Prior to limits, you might have expected Brim-Edwards, who retired from a senior position at Nike in 2022, to vastly outraise del Rocío, a grassroots organizer. But with the $568-per-donor limit, Brim-Edwards has raised just $105,000. That’s a little more than twice del Rocío’s $50,000 total but far less than it would have been before limits. The limits apply only to candidate races, not ballot measures—and fundraising for Measure 26-238, which would impose a new capital gains tax to pay for eviction relief lawyers, shows the disparities that are possible without limits. Tenants Organizing Against Displacement, the yes campaign, has raised just under $26,000 this year (it also raised nearly $73,000 in prior years to qualify for the ballot), while Building Our Future Together, the campaign to defeat the measure, has raised $591,000, including a $250,000 check from the National Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, voters will have to wait a few more days for their ballots to arrive: An error by Multnomah County Elections has required the reprinting of 560,000 ballots, at a cost of $300,000.

NEW REPORT SHOWS DROP IN VIOLENT CRIME: Violent crime dropped 10% last year in Portland, according to a new analysis by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. Property crime saw a smaller drop of 2%, mirroring state and regional trends. The decline comes after a nearly 12% rise in violent crime between 2020 and 2021 in Oregon’s most populous cities, “which indicates that the concerning increase in violent crime during the COVID-19 pandemic may be reversing,” the report notes. The analysis released by the CJC on April 17 was based on the FBI’s Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2022, which tracks crime data supplied by more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Portland Police Bureau. The new numbers are welcome news, but may do little to dispel Portlanders’ concerns about public safety. The number of shootings remained flat and car theft rose by more than 20% in 2022, the Police Bureau reports. And the preliminary FBI murder numbers don’t align with the bureau’s own homicide reports. The FBI says murders dropped from 86 to 85. But PPB’s data shows homicides increased from 88 to 97. The Police Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the discrepancy.

SHELTER REOPENING DELAYED BY MONTHS: Last spring, Multnomah County shut down a 120-bed homeless shelter in Southeast Portland for repairs. WW has learned its reopening will be delayed by months due to additional flaws in the electrical system discovered by the county during repairs. The additional work at the Willamette Center will cost an extra $1 million—and the shelter won’t open until the fall. The Willamette Center is one of two county shelters currently closed for renovations. The other is the Arbor Lodge shelter in North Portland, which is expected to reopen in 2024. The closure of the two shelters brings the county’s shelter bed count, including tiny homes and motel rooms, to 1,718. “Additional needs were uncovered as the work began, which is not uncommon in construction,” says Denis Theriault, spokesman for the Joint Office of Homeless Services, “and we’re working through that so we can get the building back to providing a safe place to sleep for hundreds of people a year.”

BRIDGE AND TOLLS MOVE FRONT AND CENTER: Although the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation is grappling with whether and how to fund two megaprojects on Interstate 5 in Portland (the proposed $1.45 billion expansion of the freeway at the Rose Quarter and the $6.5 billion replacement of the Interstate Bridge), the committee has held limited discussion of those projects or the tolls the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to use to pay for them. Eight members of the committee, including Rep. Khanh Pham and Sen. Lew Frederick (both D-Portland), took the unusual step of requesting a public hearing on tolling way back on March 9. That hearing still hasn’t happened, but the committee will finally take public testimony on House Bill 2098, which relates to the bridge and tolling, on April 27 at 5 pm. Clackamas County residents and their lawmakers are all but revolting against proposed tolls, which they fear would be too expensive and would divert traffic from Interstate 205 to local streets. At an April 24 town hall in Lake Oswego, Senate President Rob Wagner, who last week named himself to the Transportation Committee, told the crowd, “ODOT has not done a very good job answering [tolling] questions for our community and I think this conversation is not done.”

PHIL KNIGHT GIVES $400 MILLION TO ALBINA: Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, pledged $400 million April 24 to invest in North Portland’s Albina neighborhood through a new nonprofit called the 1803 Fund. The fund will be run by Rukaiyah Adams, former chief investment officer at the Meyer Memorial Trust and onetime chair of the Oregon Investment Council. The fund’s first project is called Rebuild Albina. It will invest in “education, place and culture and belonging in the Albina community, with benefits that will ripple across Portland.” That neighborhood, the center of Portland’s Black community, was torn apart over decades by the construction of Interstate 5 and rising home prices. It’s also home to Moda Center, the arena for the Portland Trail Blazers, which Knight has sought to purchase from the estate of Paul Allen. At a press conference Monday on the Nike campus, Knight paraphrased John F. Kennedy’s famous quote: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Correction: The Murmur about county elections originally failed to note Tenants Organizing Against Displacement had raised nearly $73,000 in prior years. WW regrets the error.

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