There’s a lot to keep track of in the world these days, in a 24-hour news cycle that never, ever seems to take a break. Never fear, Portland Monthly's here to help you sort it all out. Starting this week, every Monday we'll round up the top local stories that you need to know about in our corner of the world. Have a newsworthy topic you think everyone'll be talking about? Get in touch at [email protected]
After 18 months, schools across the Portland metro area return to full-time classes this week. The road to get there has been bumpy, and as the start of school approached, calls to press pause and wait for the Delta variant to peak in the state have reached a fever pitch, particularly with news of thousands of kids quarantining in states where schools have already been in session for a few weeks. It’s important to remember, though, that headlines like those are cropping up in states that have willfully ignored mitigations that public health experts say can allow schools to open safely. That’s not the case in the Portland area, where vaccination and mask mandates are in place and federal dollars are going toward ventilation updates. Also key: Calls to pump the brakes before school even starts and mandate a return to a hybrid or fully-remote school schedule would violate state rules, since districts must offer a minimum number of instructional hours to every student.
Labor Day looms, and that means we are nearly at the one-year anniversary of the giant fire that tore through the Santiam River canyon in 2020, displacing families, burning thousands of acres and sending a thick haze of smoke over the Portland area that persisted in blocking out the sun for 10 of the longest-seeming days ever. Could it happen again? September is peak wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest, at the very end of our driest period, and fire officials are keeping a wary eye on the Bull Complex Fire, centered 12 miles north of Detroit, right near the same site as last summer’s devastation. It’s nearly 10,000 acres and just three percent contained, with full containment not estimated until Halloween. So far, that hasn’t resulted in smoky skies or evacuations, but that could change quickly if the winds whip up.
It’s hard to imagine a week when the ongoing conversation about the houseless population on the streets of Portland won’t make this list. With school starting, encampments around schools are getting cleared, and pressure is ratcheting up on the city, Multnomah County and its partners to move ahead with more sustainable, long-term solutions than the current whack-a-mole situation. Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office had previously said that six sites where more permanent camps with supportive services could be located would be determined by the end of the summer, with the goal to get them up and running by December. The last we looked, Labor Day was the traditional end of summer, so there might be an important announcement from Ryan’s office this week on where the new permanent camps will be located.
Politics nerds should set their alarm clocks for Friday morning. That’s when the dry-sounding-but-don't-be-fooled House and Senate Interim Committee on Redistricting will meet online to review draft maps that for the first time will give a hint of what those in charge think Oregon’s newly redrawn Congressional districts could look like. Oregon’s a blue state, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that the extra seat that our population gains won for us in the 2020 Census would be an easy win for the Democrats; in fact, because of the need to maintain geographic population clusters and depending on how wonkily the map is drawn, this could add an extra seat for the GOP, even as Democrats are fighting to hang onto control of the chamber.
- Think twice before you reach for those novelty Oreos, folks. who are angry with the snack food giant’s parent company over changes to their pension, overtime rules and scheduling changes, have inspired their co-workers in at least four other states to follow suit. Already, the action has spread to Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia. It’s not the kind of publicity that’s great for business, and union-friendly Oregon politicos have been tripping over themselves to appear on the picket lines and keep the pressure on Nabisco. Watch for the possible spread to yet more locations—and more photo ops—in the week ahead.