1. Oregon Zoo officials are trying to explain away their misleading and false statements after the embarrassing news the zoo’s new baby elephant actually belongs to a California traveling elephant show accused of animal cruelty. Seattle Times reporter Michael J. Berens broke the story Dec. 3, writing that zoo officials first denied the calf belonged to Have Trunk Will Travel, which rents out elephants to weddings, movie productions, parades and corporate events. (Berens, however, had the contract that shows the company takes ownership of the calf after 30 days.) In blog posts after the calf’s Nov. 30 birth, zoo officials called the calf “the newest addition to the Oregon Zoo elephant herd”—and promised “a bright future for baby” because the calf would grow up in a proposed expansion of the zoo’s elephant exhibit. Last year, Animal Defenders International released video allegedly showing Have Trunk Will Travel trainers using electric prods and hooks on their animals. Zoo officials now say they are negotiating to keep the calf. The Seattle Times’ recent two-part investigative series on elephants in captivity revealed 16 of the 22 offspring sired by iconic Oregon Zoo elephant Packy and his father, Thonglaw, have already died.
  1. Late to the party: As WW reported last week, Portland Mayor-elect Charlie Hales’ Dec. 4 fundraiser charged donors up to $2,500 each. Hales has already bagged lots of money from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Service Employees International Union. Hales used their donations ($25,532 and $20,000, respectively) to break his self-imposed $600 contribution limit. Now comes the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees with its checkbook. AFSCME, which represents more than 1,000 city workers, endorsed Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland). AFSCME Locals 189 and 75 now are each giving Hales $5,000 to help retire his campaign debt.
  1. Tucked between PERS cuts and money for schools in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s budget is one big, largely overlooked change: a proposed 43 percent increase in funding for community mental-health and addiction treatment. It’s part of the state’s efforts to stay out of trouble with the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been investigating the state’s treatment of people with serious and persistent mental illness under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The state and feds reached a settlement in November. The $1 billion budget includes $41 million for community mental health, and reinvests $45 million in savings from the Affordable Care Act. The Legislature must still approve the plan. “It’s the biggest deal related to community mental health since I first moved here in 1976,” Derald Walker, president of Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, tells WW.