Murmurs: Hose Flushing, Ghost Trains and a Nike Shocker

  1. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has spent $3.8 million in the past year—that’s 19 percent of all parking-meter revenues—to clean up TriMet’s transit mall, pay off the mall’s debt, and create marketing campaigns to lure more shoppers downtown. The expenses included $331,000 for “hose flushing” the transit mall twice a week. City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade revealed this finding in a Jan. 30 audit, which points to many pressing transportation needs and chides the City Council for launching new projects without money to pay for them. WW broke news of the audit three weeks ago (“A Fork in the Road,” WW, Jan. 9, 2013). One example: Mayor Sam Adams’ $16 million commitment to build sidewalks in neighborhoods that lack them. The audit says the city counted on gas-tax revenues that didn’t come in as projected—and then “opted to reduce other transportation programs in the adopted budget rather than reduce funding for these new capital commitments for sidewalks.”
  1. Portland’s new eastside streetcar is earning the nickname “Ghost Train” for how few riders the line gets. The city is now seeking proposals to install automated passenger-counting systems in six of its streetcars, including the eastside Central Loop line and busier westside lines. The city currently pays TriMet to conduct a census of streetcar ridership, but it can’t afford to get stop-by-stop numbers. No word yet whether blogger Jack Bogdanski—who frequently documents eastside streetcars traveling empty—has put in a bid.
  1. Mayor Charlie Hales has used post-election fundraising to pay off $100,000 in loans he made to his own campaign. But another high-profile campaign—Portlanders for Schools, which successfully promoted a $482 million bond issue for Portland Public Schools—is still $46,000 in the red, including $19,500 it owes consultant Jon Isaacs’ former company. PPS Superintendent Carole Smith recently hired Isaacs as a $115,000-a-year senior policy advisor. He says the campaign’s contributions cratered after polling showed it would pass easily. A fundraiser is now working to pay off the deficit.
  1. A former Nike employee has filed a shocking lawsuit, alleging unsafe working conditions for electricians at the apparel giant’s Beaverton headquarters. Douglas Ossanna’s $985,000 suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court claims apprentice electricians were not supervised, and that two contract electricians were shocked while working on improperly wired lights in Nike World HQ’s Tiger Woods Conference Center. Ossanna claims Nike retaliated when he complained to the Oregon Occupational Health & Safety Division—and forced him to resign Jan. 9 for shooting baskets on one of Nike’s courts while he was off the clock. A Nike spokesman declined to comment.