5 Stories to Watch, September 13-19
We’ll be honest: This week, we can almost guarantee that one of the top conversation starters will be the weather. That’s right: There’s actually rain in the forecast for this week, after this long, dry, hot summer. (Not until Friday though. Don’t get too excited.) But there’s only so many times you can remark upon how badly we could use the rain while everyone nods in agreement. Here’s what you should bring up this week when the weather chat inevitably peters out.
So, it turns out, local governments can mandate that employees must be vaccinated in order to keep their jobs—unless, of course, those same employees are members of law enforcement, in which case they are exempt under an arcane state law that anyone who was around in Salem in the late 1980s probably wishes had died a quiet death in committee. But hold up—here comes President Joe Biden and his exasperated grandpa vibes, mandating that any employer with more than 100 employees had to either require vaccinations for their staff or pony up for weekly testing. Lack of compliance brings a $14,000 fine per violation. You know who has more than 100 employees? The Portland Police Bureau (and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, while we are at it.) So, what’s next? Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury has called for a legislative fix; conveniently, the legislature is meeting in a special session on September 20 to discuss proposed redistricting maps. Don’t be surprised if a vaccine mandate revision makes it onto the docket too.
Last Thursday was the first official day for candidates in Oregon to file to run for office in November 2022 (assuming they make it through the May primary.) Accordingly, expect a barrage of candidate announcements in the next week or two—we have it on good authority that Portland city council member Jo Ann Hardesty can expect multiple challengers. There are plenty of incentives for announcing early, including locking up support from key interest groups like labor unions and the environmental lobby and scaring off potential competitors—but of course, the longer you’re in a race, the higher the chances that you’ll go off script and say something that can be used against you later on in a campaign ad.
We see you, Dutch Bros. The company goes public this week—Tuesday marks its IPO, and appropriately enough, as per a report in The Oregonian, it will begin trading on the NYSE under the ticker name “BROS” thus ensuring that every frat house investment club in America will buy in. Dutch Bros now has nearly 500 outposts across the Western United States, and hopes to grow that nearly tenfold—lookout, Seattle and Starbucks, Grants Pass is COMING FOR YOU. If all goes well, the business would instantly be among the top ten of Oregon’s most valuable public companies, and would make an overnight billionaire of its co-founder and chairman, Travis Boersma.
The hits just keep on coming for downtown Portland. The latest one: the long-planned redevelopment of the U.S. Post Office building that straddles Old Town and the Pearl District lost some serious momentum after the Denver firm that was contracted to build shiny new stuff on the site pulled out of the deal. There’s no sugarcoating that this is a blow for the city; the Broadway Corridor, as it is known, has great bones, with the green of the Park Blocks and an anchor in the Pacific Northwest College of Art, but is a bit of a no-man’s-land. Willamette Week reports that one developer think the site would be perfect—not for glitzy retail and office space, but as a site for temporary shelters for the houseless population. Whether or not it will be there remains to be seen, but the clock is ticking on Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office’s promise to get six such promised sites around the city up and running by the end of the year. (Heck, they haven’t even narrowed down the locations yet, despite saying that decision was coming around Labor Day. Tick-tock.)
Let ‘Er Buck, Y’all?
The Pendleton Round-Up, a signature end-of-summer Oregon event, is back this week, with rodeos, bull-riding, parades, and more. One regular attendee, Gov. Kate Brown, sent her regrets, saying she was sitting it out this year thanks to concerns about the delta variant. Mask-wearing at an outdoor event of this size is mandated in Oregon, but enforcement of such is another issue. Meanwhile, neither proof of vaccination nor a negative COVID test are required for attendance. COVID cases in Umatilla County, home to the Round-Up, are among the highest in the state as a percentage of population, and test positivity rates are a very high 13 percent.