A proposed $225,000 settlement of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the City of Portland by a black lesbian who became a man in 2006 goes to a final council vote on Wednesday, Sept. 10. Plaintiff Michel Knox, a parking patrol officer, had filed several labor complaints against the city since landing the job in 1999. Interesting revelations in the court documents describe a workplace in which down time was filled with crossword puzzles, shoulder rubs were "common practice" and workers schemed against one another. Knox claimed one dispatcher would "lift her buttocks and break wind" at him. In a council hearing last week, Commissioner Dan Saltzman was the lone opponent of settling the suit, which originally sought $600,000. "Most city employees are outstanding people who work very hard," Saltzman said. "For those who are not, like Mr. Knox, it's too bad we don't have a lemon law."
State lawmakers' flagging interest in increasing the gas tax next year is driving a hole in a proposed funding plan for the $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing Project (see "Bridge Over the River Why," WW, May 21, 2008). A proposed 14-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike had set aside 2 cents for the new bridge across the Columbia. But Rick Metsger (D-Welches), Senate Transportation Committee chairman, says, "We will not have a package that includes CRC funding." In addition to higher pump prices, urban-rural tensions auger poorly for the project. "Why would you want to poison the statewide tax for a couple of pennies for CRC?" Metsger says.
Powerful Salem lobbyist Paul Romain has signed up a new client, the Washington, D.C.-based American Bail Coalition. WW readers will remember from the July 2 cover story, "Manhunter," that the coalition wants to bring the bail bond business back to Oregon—one of only four states that exclude the profession. "We're just inquiring now to see what legislators' interest is," Romain says. Oregon booted bail bondsmen in 1974.
The Oregonian newsroom is buzzing over coordinating editor Quinton Smith leaving abruptly after Executive Editor Peter Bhatia blew up at him at a daily editors meeting late last week. Bhatia reportedly said "shut the fuck up" to Smith, who had asked when the meeting would end. Sources say Smith was frustrated at outside calls coming to his phone from the desk of the vacationing receptionist. Bhatia apparently tried to make amends later. But Smith, who's worked at the paper for a couple dozen years, said forget it and told Editor Sandy Rowe he's leaving and will take the buyout offered staffers last month by Publisher Fred Stickel. For more buyout updates, go to wweek.com.
By month's end, the Portland Development Commission hopes to pick between two sites for a proposed "World Sustainability Center." The sites are the Goldsmith building at 20 NW 5th Ave. and the Leftbank building at 240 N Broadway (the latter isn't exactly in a walkable area). The winner would house the center for a few years, until completion of a new building near Portland State University or in the Pearl District. The center would let enviro-geared researchers, businesses and nonprofits share a roof.
Investors who say former Lake Oswego investment adviser Wes Rhodes (see "The Collector," WW, July 27, 2007) burned them are turning their fire on the life insurance company whose financial services branch employed Rhodes in the 1990s. Investors have long feared Rhodes has little money left to pay back the $24.6 million the feds say Rhodes bilked from them. So five investors are turning to deeper pockets by suing insurer Massachusetts Mutual in federal court. And now there's a new lawsuit filed last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court by 56 investors against Mass Mutual and a slew of banks, lawyers and other companies they say helped Rhodes, who's scheduled for sentencing Feb. 17 after pleading guilty last year to fraud and money laundering.