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5 Oregon Stories To Watch This Week, October 11-19

Who gets to decide the fate of downtown statues, the Blazers face preseason bumps, and nurses at Kaiser-Permanente consider going on strike.

By Julia Silverman October 11, 2021

What should replace the statue of Teddy Roosevelt in the downtown Park Blocks?

Yes, it’s Monday again—but not just any Monday. It’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which makes today a great day to think, read, listen and immerse yourself in the history of colonization and Northwest tribes—we’ve got suggestions for how to commemorate the day here. Federal and state offices are closed to commemorate the day—but news never takes much of a break. Here’s what else you should be clocking this week. 

Nurses On Strike 

It’s a tough time to be a nurse in Oregon, given the endless seeming pandemic and the late summer Delta-fueled surge in hospitalizations. Now, nurses at Kaiser-Pemanente, one of the Portland-area's major hospital systems, are voting on whether to go on strike, saying that the company’s stiffing them on salary negotiations during bargaining. Participation in the voting is high, and a decision could come as soon as Monday, though any strike action would first be subject to a 10-day cooling off period. Still, it’s more evidence of health care workers in Oregon reaching their breaking points—some 60 percent of nurses at OHSU say they are considering leaving the profession due to burnout, according to a recent survey publicized by the Oregon Nurses’ Association. 

Vaccinated? Prove It. 

We’re going out on a limb here, as this topic isn’t actually on the agendas of governing bodies in either Portland or Multnomah County—yet. But it hasn’t escaped our notice that in just the past few weeks, politicians in bellwether West Coast cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, have all instituted various versions of a “you need to prove your vaccination status before you enter a gym/hair salon/restaurant/nightclub,” law. Can Portland and Multnomah County really be so far behind? So far, efforts to this effect here have been bottom up, like the ever growing number of restaurants that require proof of vaccination to dine indoors—is this the week that officials here will make their move? 

Recall on the Rocks 

The recall against Mayor Ted Wheeler is basically DOA, with organizers failing to collect anywhere near the number of signatures needed to place the topic on the ballot. (They’ve blamed the COVID pandemic and this summer’s searing heat wave for making signature gathering efforts difficult; political professionals have also suggested that the lack of clarity on who, exactly, was supposed to be the mayor if Wheeler had been recalled didn’t help matters.) But the recall campaigners are making a last-ditch appeal to the courts to intervene in the matter, seeking a 90-day extension on freedom of political speech grounds. A swift answer from the courts is indicated—perhaps as soon as this week. 

Statues of Limitations 

Last year, we offered our humble suggestions as to which transformative Oregonians we might consider memorializing in statue form, to replace the various white male presidents and pioneers who were toppled during the social justice/racial equity protests of 2020. We don’t know whether anyone at the Regional Arts and Culture Council heeded our suggestions, but it does sound like they plan not to restore the statues in question—or at least, that was the plan to, until, as Willamette Week reported, several prominent downtown business leaders flagged their decision, contending that more public input was needed. This Wednesday, RACC members submit their final proposals to the Portland City Council, and we’ll get a better sense of just how powerful that last-minute intervention really is. 

Are You Ready for Some Basketball? 

This week is the proverbial calm before the storm for Trail Blazers fans—the team plays three more preseason games before opening the regular season on October 20. As per usual, there are plenty of juicy subplots to watch here, including the looming question of superstar Damian Lillard’s future with a franchise that’s let him down over the years, and how the Blazers will look under controversial new coach Chauncey Billups. So far, the preseason results haven’t been particularly promising; let’s hope for a turnaround in the week ahead. 

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