Murmurs: The Latest Dispatches From The Uncaring Economy.

  1. Portland seems to be coming to terms with the so-called “sharing economy”—witness the deal, first reported by, that Mayor Charlie Hales cut with Uber to have the ride-sharing company leave town for three months while Portland reconsiders its taxi rules. Meanwhile, not all is going so well for Airbnb, the short-term rental site Hales has embraced. The mayor and other commissioners amended city code to allow many of Airbnb’s 1,600 Portland hosts to operate legally, but few of them have sought the required city inspections of their properties. The city is now considering fining Airbnb $500 each time hosts fail to post their city permit number in listings. On Dec. 18, Airbnb director of public policy David Owen likened the City Council’s “objectionable” plan to the National Security Administration forcing Web companies to turn over data on consumers. In response, usually placid Commissioner Nick Fish angrily accused Airbnb of acting as if it’s above safety rules. “We have an obligation to go after folks who are not following the law,” Fish said. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the new rule in January.
  1. Two weeks ago, WW wrote about a prison rehabilitation program that really works—just in time for the Oregon Department of Corrections to shut it down. The Family Preservation Project, a parenting program at Wilsonville’s Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, has proved successful in preparing female inmates to return to family life by helping them stay connected with their children (“Hard Times Get Harder,” WW, Dec. 10, 2014). Corrections had announced it was ending the program Jan. 5. But objections from state Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) and other legislators have won it a brief reprieve. Prison officials now say they will phase out the program, allowing inmates currently in it to finish up while barring any new participants. “It’s a great program, but it’s an expensive one,” Williamson tells WW. “We’ve reached the best compromise we could.”
  1. Potential for a shake-up of the Portland Public Schools Board is growing. Two new candidates have announced plans to run in the May election: Mike Rosen, a Southeast Portland parent activist and manager of the watershed division of the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services, will challenge incumbent Greg Belisle; Paul Anthony, a North Portland parent activist and CFO of a financial services company, wants to replace Matt Morton. Rosen and Anthony criticize five of the board’s seven members for routinely backing Superintendent Carole Smith. Rosen calls the majority a “rubber stamp” for Smith. “They provide no oversight and no accountability,” he says. “The feedback I get from parents is, ‘We’re done, we want change.’”
  1. Give!Guide has raised $1.6 million, ahead of pace to reach its $2.6 million goal. See the list of 136 worthy nonprofits and make your donation by Dec. 31 at

WWeek 2015

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