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5 Oregon Stories to Watch this Week, November 15–21

A big budget vote at the Portland City Council, more backstage drama for the Trail Blazers, and a deadline looms for Oregon renters

With Julia Silverman November 15, 2021

Money to expand The Portland Police Bureau is on the agenda at The Portland City Council this week.

If you do anything in the week ahead, it should be this: Place your order for a Thanksgiving turkey. Yes, even the best holiday of the year’s traditional centerpiece is not immune to the global supply chain shortages plaguing everything from an in-demand Portland-made handheld video game console to the computer chips built by the state’s largest employer. Once that’s done, turn your attention to these talk-of-the-town stories that will be on Portland’s radar in the countdown-to-the-holiday week ahead. 

A City Council Work Session to Remember 

Seven. Hours. That is how long it took Portland City Council last week to get through the astonishing number of people who had signed up to speak about what, precisely, to do with the $62 million or so in windfall money currently at the council’s disposal, thanks to larger than expected business tax revenues. The money is currently earmarked for the kinds of programs you might expect: public safety, homelessness services, garbage cleanup. Easily the most controversial piece is Mayor Ted Wheeler’s call to use some of the funding to hire 200 more police officers, which he says would help stem the exploding rate of gun violence in Portland. (The jury’s still out on whether expanding the police force is the solution here, for what it’s worth; researchers say it depends on where the new officers are placed within the department, and should be in tandem with other programming, like drug and mental health treatments, to truly pay off.) This Wednesday, the council is set to vote on the plan, but it’s unclear whether there will be unanimous support. 

As the Blazers Turn 

Last week, the Portland Trail Blazers made their way into this roundup with news that an independent investigation had been opened into the workplace conduct of General Manager Neil Olshey, after complaints about a toxic workplace environment. Now comes word of a resignation, but not the one you might have expected. The team’s President and CEO, Chris McGowan, announced via Twitter that he’s calling it quits—not because he’s been implicated in the ongoing investigation though. Will Olshey be next? We could well know by this time next week. 

A Vaccine Mandate on Ice, For Now 

Parents of kids ages 5–11 all over Portland are celebrating the first round of jabs for their offspring. Meanwhile, in a classic late Friday news dump, Portland Public Schools announced that when the school board reconvenes this coming Tuesday, staff will recommend a six month pause in any decision on mandating the vaccines for students 12 and up. That's a change from late October, when four of seven board members indicated their willingness to vote for such a mandate, which would have made PPS one of only a handful of districts in the entire country to require students to get vaccinated. Staff say they are recommending a wait on any decisions about a mandate in order to see whether the bulk of district families get their kids vaccinated on their own accord—but there were also unanswered questions about what options would be available to unvaccinated kids, and whether any requirement could have faced an expensive legal challenge.

A Big Deadline Looms 

If you’re an Oregon renter who is behind on your rent checks and you’ve been dragging your feet on applying for emergency assistance from the state, time is running out. Almost all of the nearly $300 million in federal dollars allocated for this purpose is spoken for, and new applications won’t be accepted, starting in just two weeks. Meanwhile, the program has come under fire for being achingly slow to process paperwork for those who have filed for help, leaving landlords and renters alike in the lurch. (It is possible that this won’t be the last word: The federal government could come up with more money, or it’s looking increasingly likely that the legislature may convene an emergency session to come up with a statewide fix.) 

The State of Our Unions, Part 2 

Last week, we told you to buckle up for the Kaiser Permanente strike, expected to start Monday, if the two sides didn’t reach a last minute deal. In fact, that eleventh hour deal was announced on Saturday, much to the relief of both sides, we'd imagine. Then during the week, Portland Monthly reported on the employees at small-but-mighty Image Comics forming the first ever union for comics employees. And at the end of the week comes word that unionized Burgerville employees have come to terms with management on a contract that is being billed as the first of its kind in the fast food industry. What can we say but this: Unions, so hot right now.

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