What’s that? Feeling some déjà vu? You’re not alone. A few of the stories you need to pay attention to this week might seem a leetle familiar—blame politicians and their associated foot-dragging, hand-wringing and general urge to kick the can down the road for that one. You know what they say: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
All Eyes on Schrader
Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader has always been a bit of a black sheep—or should we say blue dog?—amidst his more liberal Oregon colleagues, though that’s reasonable enough given the composition of voters in his Clackamas County-Willamette Valley-North/Central Oregon Coast district. This week, all local eyes will be on Schrader as the U.S. House considers President Joe Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion spending plan for social and environmental infrastructure improvements. As a Democrat, Schrader might fairly be expected to fall in line, but he signaled some opposition recently with his House Energy and Commerce committee vote against a portion of the bill that would have allowed Medicare more leeway to negotiate pricing for prescription drugs. Given the tight margins in the House, Democrats can afford to lose only three votes before having to go back to the drawing board. Interest groups at home are putting a full-court press on Schrader; but the congressman has also regularly received donations from the pharmaceutical industry during his time in DC. Meanwhile, political insiders locally are starting to whisper about a possible challenge to Schrader from the left, AOC style.
Something in the water in Newberg?
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware of what’s gone down in the Newberg School District recently, in seemingly bucolic Yamhill County, land of filberts, rolling vineyards, gubernatorial hopefuls, charming tourist-friendly downtowns and, apparently, a not-so-latent streak of virulent racism and homophobia. It started when the newly elected majority on the Newberg school board began consideration of a plan to ban gay pride and Black Lives Matter flags from school property, and mushroomed into legal battles and displays of overt racism, including an employee who was, according to the Newberg Graphic, fired after showing up at school in blackface claiming she was impersonating Rosa Parks as a means of protesting vaccine mandates (heavy sigh). The school board meets again on Tuesday, presumably to consider the way forward, after a listening session last week in which every single teacher and student who testified urged them to reconsider their actions.
Last week, we suggested that you be on the lookout for a vote from the Portland City Council on whether to renew a 5-year, $25 million contract with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe, which is managed by the Portland Business Alliance. The program, which aims to keep city streets free of litter and violence, is not without controversy, however, as activists criticize its subsidies for armed and unamed security guards, and their interactions with downtown’s houseless population. In response to such concerns, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty last week said she’d push for a one year extension of the current agreement, and an overall equity-focused review of so-called “enhanced service districts” where property owners fork over extra dollars for additional security and trash removal. The matter is scheduled to pop back up on the city council’s agenda this Wednesday morning.
Reproductive Rights, Unite
On the heels of last week’s big climate strike, which was well-attended by thousands of students and other environmental activists, the organized march season in Portland further kicks into high gear this Saturday with the March for Reproductive Rights, part of a nationwide demonstration against Texas’s recent decision to outlaw virtually all abortions after six weeks. A diverse group of organizers has been working for weeks on planning the march, which kicks off at 11 am on Saturday from Revolution Hall and features a diverse group of speakers, including abortion rights pioneer Judith Arcana. (Plans for a 21+ after-party featuring Portugal the Man are also afoot, kicking off at 7 pm at the Fair-Haired Dumbell building at 7 NE MLK Boulevard. Tickets are $25 (available on a sliding scale to the BIPOC community) and all proceeds are earmarked for nonprofit donations.
Once More With Feeling
Yes, it’s another story about redistricting. Totally fair, by the way, to be annoyed about that since the one-day special session to hammer out all the deets on redistricting was scheduled for last Monday—until it all fell apart at the eleventh hour thanks to last minute politcking over whether majority Democrats were presenting gerry-mandered maps. Attempts to schedule another meeting last week were scuttled when a case of COVID was ID’d at the Capitol. If nothing can be worked out by Monday (that's today!), responsibility for redistricting the legislature passes to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan; an independent panel appointed by the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court will take over drawing congressional boundaries. If there was ever a time for the popcorn emoji, this is that time.