Murmurs: Congressional Field in Flux

In other news: Grant Bowl gets new turf.

CONGRESSIONAL FIELD IN FLUX: The jockeying to succeed U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes most of Portland, continues apace. Former Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, who would have likely been the favorite had she entered the race, told The Oregonian she won’t run, and state Rep. Travis Nelson (D-Portland) told Oregon Public Broadcasting he’s out too. Former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who, along with Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales, entered the race Nov. 1, announced she’d raised more than $109,000 in her first 72 hours as a candidate. That flexing has not dissuaded two other House Democrats in Portland—state Reps. Maxine Dexter and Thuy Tran—from also considering entering the race. Dexter said she would decide soon whether to run, while Tran, a first-term representative from Northeast Portland who works as an optometrist and serves in the Oregon Air National Guard, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

GRANT BOWL GETS NEW TURF: To the delight of student athletes and their parents, workers began replacing the artificial turf on Grant High School’s football field this week, even though Portland Parks & Recreation and Portland Public Schools don’t have a deal on who will control the property. PPS, which is negotiating a long-term lease from the parks bureau, is paying for the $1.5 million renovations. Grant parents have been lobbying for PPS to take control since August, when the parks bureau closed the field just days before the fall soccer and football seasons started. Deferred maintenance had left the field compacted, posing concussion risks. “We’re thrilled to see the turf replacement work begin,” says Kim McGair, mother of a varsity girls soccer player and co-founder of the Grant Bowl Community Coalition. “We’re thankful to our community for speaking out and to PPS for acting with urgency. We appreciate Commissioner [Dan] Ryan meeting with us and agreeing to turn the Bowl over to PPS.” Now, parents would like to see a formal lease signed, McGair says, so Grant can install lights and stands. It’s the only school of its size in the state where games must be played in daylight and spectators sit on grass berms. Lease negotiations hit a snag late last month over a smaller field used for softball and baseball that is jointly owned by PPS and the parks bureau. Commissioner Ryan, who oversees the parks bureau, wants to guarantee community access to the other field when it’s not being used by students, a spokesman says. The Grant Park Neighborhood Association has complained that PPS locks the field, keeping neighbors out even when it’s not in use by Grant teams.

AMR STRUGGLES TO STAFF AMBULANCES IN WASHINGTON COUNTY: American Medical Response, the beleaguered ambulance contractor that faces fines in Multnomah County for short staffing and poor performance, is already running into similar problems in Washington County, where it just took over the ambulance service contract in August. In a Nov. 2 email obtained by WW, Forest Grove Fire Chief Jim Geering, who oversees the Cornelius Fire Department as well, said he was fed up with AMR’s tardy ambulances—which were forcing his staff to neglect other duties to transport patients to hospitals. The two cities operate one ambulance each that respond to 911 calls and, when AMR isn’t available, transport patients to the hospital. “We are taking firefighters away from the fire engine they are assigned to,” he wrote. “We can no longer support this level of risk to our public’s safety.” Beginning in December, he wrote, both cities would “remove our ambulance transport vehicle identifiers from an ‘available status’ in our 9-1-1 center CAD system.” Geering and Cornelius city manager Peter Brandom emphasized ambulances would remain on call to respond to emergencies. “There’s absolutely no reason for anyone in our communities to be concerned about diminished public safety,” Brandom said. AMR says it plans to be fully staffed by the end of the year: “One of AMR’s goals was to relieve the fire department from having to transport patients from emergency scenes and we feel the removal of their ambulances from the 911 CAD is a step in the right direction.”

BEACHFRONT PROPERTY FOR SALE: Hotelier Mark Hemstreet will see one of his company’s trophy properties sold this month. A court-appointed receiver is currently soliciting bids for the beachfront Shilo Inn in Seaside. At its peak more than two decades ago, Hemstreet’s Shilo Inn chain numbered nearly 50 hotels scattered across the West. But beginning with the travel hiatus after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Shilo has dwindled and Hemstreet has faced a series of financial setbacks (“Battle of Shilo,” WW, Feb. 8). Last year, California-based Cathay Bank filed suit against Hemstreet and his companies in Multnomah County Circuit Court, seeking to collect a long-standing debt. The judge appointed a receiver who could then sell various assets held in the receivership estate, including Shilo Inns in Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Texas, to repay money owed. Now, the receiver will sell the 113-room Seaside Shilo to the highest bidder. The hotel is a moneymaker, according to its listing, having earned $1.93 million in net operating income last year. Bids are due by Nov. 22.

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