Murmurs: Rubio Goes After Graffiti

In other news: Feds subpoena state agency for La Mota records.

Gordons Fireplace Shop. (Chris Nesseth)

RUBIO GOES AFTER GRAFFITI: City Commissioner Carmen Rubio plans to introduce an amendment to Portland city code this week making it easier to compel negligent private property owners to clean graffiti off their buildings. Under the current code, the city must get a warrant from a judge, hire a contractor to paint over long-standing graffiti, then put a lien on the property to recoup the costs, a process that “involves a substantial financial investment from the city without knowing when or whether the funds will be repaid,” according to a memo about the change from Matt Olguin, manager of the city’s graffiti abatement program. Rubio’s change would let graffiti enforcers go to a code hearings officer instead of a judge, streamlining the enforcement process. “I don’t need to tell Portlanders that the amount of graffiti throughout our city has increased exponentially over the last few years,” Rubio said in a statement. “It takes a lot of time and money to enforce our code through the administrative warrant process. Going forward, I propose the city use an internal process through our hearings officer for the most egregious property owners.” The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which Rubio oversees, has painted over 300,000 square feet of graffiti since October 2022, Olguin said in his memo. Yet, the problem proliferates, in large part because agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation have run out of money to paint over tags on state highways (“Spray Anything,” WW, Jan. 31).

FEDS SUBPOENA STATE AGENCY FOR LA MOTA RECORDS: In the latest development in the federal investigation into former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s relationship with the founders of the embattled cannabis company La Mota, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is now turning an eye to the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries, which in 2022 gave a nonprofit run by La Mota a $500,000 grant. The feds are asking for all records related to how the nonprofit, named Endeavor, received the grant. As WW previously reported, then-BOLI Commissioner and now-U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Ore.) was instrumental in helping La Mota’s nonprofit get the grant, even though the nonprofit had no history of work. After WW reported on La Mota last March, BOLI clawed back the remainder of the grant funds. Hoyle spokeswoman Shamma Matalbert, says the congresswoman has “never been contacted by the feds, or any other law enforcement agency, on La Mota, ENDVR, or anything related.”

STATE WEIGHS HOLDING ACCUSED DEALERS IN JAIL MORE OFTEN: The Oregon Judicial Department is weighing a new statewide policy that would require holding alleged drug dealers in jail prior to arraignment in more circumstances. The current policy, created in the wake of a 2021 bail reform bill, limits when criminal defendants can be held in jail prior to their initial court appearance. As WW reported last year, some charged dealers as a result of the policy routinely emerge from lockup to ply their trade again within hours (“License to Deal,” WW, June 28, 2023). The bail policy was updated last year to require the holding of people accused of first-degree bias crimes. Now, policymakers are weighing more punitive actions against alleged drug dealers, too. Two advisory committees have discussed options in the past month, OJD spokesman Todd Sprague says. “The cases of highest concern involve delivery or manufacture of substantial quantities, firearms, criminal history, and risk of failure to appear,” he says. Officials are currently working on a written proposal to be sent to Chief Justice Meagan Flynn, who will make the final decision. OJD is facing pressure from legislators to address the problem of repeat offenders as lawmakers consider overhauling Measure 110, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. “We’ve asked the courts to reexamine their pre-hold detention policy so people who sell drugs can be held in jail and seen before a judge before they are released,” Rep. Jason Kropf (D-Bend) said Jan. 23. OJD was already working on the idea at the time, Sprague says.

GOP SENATORS TOSS HAIL MARY: Attorneys for Republican state senators disqualified from seeking reelection because they racked up more than 10 unexcused absences last year (a result of Measure 113) appeared Feb. 9 before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite drawing the best possible panel—including two of the few conservatives on the famously liberal 9th Circuit bench—Elizabeth Jones, arguing for Sens. Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls), Brian Boquist (I-Dallas) and others, got batted around like a pickleball. Judge Jay Bybee, who as a U.S. assistant attorney general wrote a 2002 memo justifying torture for President George W. Bush, struggled at times to control his skepticism at Jones’ argument that senators should not be held accountable because they were simply exercising their First Amendment rights. “Your clients want all of the power but none of the downside,” Bybee told Jones. The court is expected to rule before the March 12 filing deadline for the May primary.

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