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5 Oregon Stories to Watch This Week, October 19-26

Budget deals at Portland City Hall, a big new movie with an Oregon backstory, and a police investigation pulls back the curtain...maybe.

By Julia Silverman October 18, 2021

The otherworldly Oregon Dunes are the inspiration for the new movie Dune which opens this Friday.

Money always talks, but perhaps especially loudly this week in Portland. Some of the week’s key stories will revolve around money: How much there is of it, who gets to say how it will be spent, and how those decisions affect our lives. Read on for more of what everyone will be talking about this week in Portland. 

Bump that Budget 

Budgets are living things—something costs less than expected or (more often, sadly) more, a project finishes, another priority surfaces. That’s why Portland city council revises its budget several times a year (officially the “budget monitoring process”) and it's generally a fairly sedate process. This time is different, as The Oregonian first reported last week: The city has a cool $62 million to play with, thanks to business licensing fees. Half of that money needs to be set aside for infrastructure programs—but half of it can go to priorities like, say, expanding Portland Street Response, or to buy body cameras for Portland police officers or to beef up the city’s overwhelmed 911 system, which is putting emergency calls on hold for too many crucial minutes.  Mayor Ted Wheeler kicks things off: His budget is due early this week, and then it’s off to the fall budget races via negotiations among council members. 

(Always) More on the Police 

Perhaps you remember one of the strangest stories of 2021: a highly bungled attempt to frame City Councilwoman Jo Ann Hardesty for a hit and run, when in fact her car had been parked in her driveway the whole time? Hardesty quickly proved that she hadn’t been involved, and the then-president of the city’s police union resigned not too long afterwards, after allegedly being implicated in the whole entire mess. The investigation of this incident has stretched on and on (Willamette Week’s been keeping a running count, in fact), but last week we got word that it had finally wrapped up. The city’s Police Review Board will hear the results of that investigation on Wednesday; eventually, Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell get to decide on disciplinary consequences, should any be deemed necessary. 

Vaccination Station? 

Portland Public School staff and board members should brace for an earful this week. The district is holding three “town halls” to hear from students and families about whether PPS students should be subject to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate or not. The first is on Tuesday night; two more forums, one for Spanish speakers only and one for students only, are set for Thursday, As you might expect, passions are running high on both sides of this one and there are no foregone conclusions here. Of note: School board members in Corvallis, another quite liberal school district, recently decided to hold off for now on such a mandate, citing equity and access concerns.  

Dune Daze 

Science fiction-ites among us are counting down the days until next Friday’s premiere of Dune, the frankly weird sounding movie (at least to those of us who would rather work our way through the Baby Sitters Club Season 2 on Netflix, thanks) set, apparently, on a dune-like planet where there are giant sand worms and other other-worldly creatures. Why should this be of particular interest to Oregonians? Because the author of the book found the inspiration for his tale in a long-ago trip to the Oregon Dunes, outside of Florence, that’s why. The coastal town is celebrating with screenings of the film, book club talks, guests lectures, and more. 

Boost Up, Part 2 

Not unique to Oregon, but by the end of this week, all systems could be go for booster shots for at-risk adults who received the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. That means they’d join the Pfizer crew that was already approved for their boosters. And the vaccine news doesn’t stop there—something tells us we’ll be writing about vaccination plans for the under-12s perhaps as soon as Halloween. 

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