Murmurs: Peterson Bows Out of Congressional Race

In other news: County bashes Metro tax idea.

Lynn Peterson (Keene Studio, LLC)

PETERSON BOWS OUT OF CONGRESSIONAL RACE: The Democratic primary in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District is now a two-woman race. On Feb. 20, Metro Council President Lynn Peterson withdrew from the primary and endorsed state Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley). Peterson’s decision, first reported the day before on, changes the dynamics of what had been a three-way primary featuring the 2022 nominee, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Bynum and Peterson, who won reelection for a second term as president of the Metro Council in 2022. A former Lake Oswego city councilor and Clackamas County chair, Peterson had hoped to capitalize on her history in the county, which contains the largest number of voters in the 5th District. Her decision to withdraw means she and Bynum, a four-term lawmaker whose district includes parts of Clackamas County, will no longer be competing for voters who may have supported them both in the past. “I believe state Rep. Janelle Bynum is the best candidate to defeat Chavez-DeRemer,” Peterson said. “She has my enthusiastic endorsement and full support, and I urge all 5th District Democrats to entrust her with this work.”

COUNTY BASHES METRO TAX IDEA: The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 20 publicly discussed Metro’s proposal to divert an unspecified percentage of the regional government’s supportive housing services tax to build more affordable housing. Metro officials floated the idea last month, proposing to pull together a panel of stakeholders to discuss putting the concept on the November ballot. Metro acted in response to three facts: First, all three metro-area counties have struggled to spend their allocations from the tax voters approved in 2020; second, economists now forecast revenues will far exceed the original projection of $250 million a year from the tax; and third, Metro has committed all of the $652 million in housing bond dollars voters approved in 2018—and polling shows voters reluctant to approve a new bond. But in a work session Tuesday, the usually fractious Multnomah County commissioners agreed they don’t like Metro’s idea. “I am unequivocally opposed,” said Commissioner Sharon Meieran, calling Metro’s argument “smoke and mirrors.” Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards concurred. “It looks like a money grab,” she said. “Diverting money to something else is problematic when we haven’t fixed the problem voters voted to solve.” Metro COO Marissa Madrigal says as the agency that collects and oversees the homeless tax, it is Metro’s responsibility to “bring up important ideas and have difficult conversations.”

OMBUDSMAN SOUNDS ALARM OVER SANDY NURSING HOME: A state watchdog has launched an investigation into oversight of a Sandy nursing home that was suddenly shuttered last month following the death of a resident. A presentation by the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, obtained by WW, outlines a series of red flags at the recently opened facility in the months prior to the death of Ki Soon Hyun, an 83-year-old resident with Alzheimer’s disease who was found dead of hypothermia in a nearby woods. Fred Steele, the ombudsman, says he was told Hyun wandered out of a propped-open door at the locked facility. The home, owned by a real estate agent, opened in 2023 despite a report by the Oregon Health Authority the prior September identifying 94 deficiencies, “including multiple for concerns with the door locking system and lack of secure area/fencing around memory care.” It’s not clear how or when the issues were resolved. Steele now says, “What was shocking was the fact that licensing [investigators] had never been in. I don’t know what they were waiting for.” Then, despite Hyun’s death in December, the Oregon Department of Human Services took no action until late January, when it found the nursing home posed an “immediate jeopardy” to residents and shut it down, giving residents only hours to find new housing. As a result, Steele found, “13 of 18 residents moved to unsafe locations,” including other homes DHS knew to be problematic. Steele says he plans to complete the investigation by next month. DHS spokeswoman Elisa Williams said the agency moved to close the facility “as soon as it became evident to the licensing team on site that there were widespread compliance issues that posed a serious threat to resident health and safety” and that agency employees “continue to work with residents and families who need additional help.”

SAM ADAMS TO RUN FOR COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Sam Adams, who served as mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2013 and became a top aide to Mayor Ted Wheeler from 2021 to 2023, will run for the District 2 seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. Adams is a controversial figure in Portland politics; a scandal arising from Adams’ sexual relationship with an 18-year-old state legislative intern named Beau Breedlove cost him a second term as mayor. He ran for City Council in 2020 but finished third, and then took a position as a top adviser on homelessness to Wheeler. That, too, ended in a blow-up in early 2023: Adams claims he resigned for health reasons, but Wheeler insisted to the press that he forced Adams out after multiple women at City Hall reported being bullied by him. Adams has retained an attorney to relitigate the details of his 2023 departure from the city. He declined to comment on his candidacy.

COUNTY PARKS MOBILE LIBRARY: The Multnomah County Library parked its trouble-plagued mobile library Feb. 17. As WW previously reported, the county spent $464,000 in 2022 to purchase a converted RV to serve patrons during numerous branch closures related to a $387 million capital improvements bond voters approved in 2020. Mechanical problems delayed the mobile library’s deployment for several months. Now, although four branches are currently closed for renovation (Albina, Holgate, Midland and North Portland), library management has ordered the vehicle idled so staff can focus on the imminent reopening of the Central Library on Feb. 23. “It has been a complete failure,” one library staffer said, speaking on background, adding that the library has not exercised “thoughtful stewardship of taxpayer money, and has not supported underserved communities like it promised to.” Library spokesman Shawn Cunningham says the vehicle may be back on the road in the spring. He acknowledged critics may be unhappy: “Any new service or approach will have its challenges, and we will navigate, evaluate and learn from those.”

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