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5 Oregon Stories To Watch This Week, November 8-14

The Trail Blazers in trouble, budget bonanzas at City Hall and Infrastructure Week, for real this time.

By Julia Silverman November 8, 2021

Image: JPL Designs

Extra hour of sleep=good. Getting dark at 5 pm=significantly less good. But such is the reality of the week ahead of us in Oregon, along with copious amounts of mid-November rain and their silver lining of much-needed snowfall in the Cascades. It’s a good week to stay inside and read the news, really—fortunately, there’s a ton of it on the agenda, from an unfolding crisis for the Portland Trail Blazers (and we don’t just mean their middle-of-the-pack starting record) to a big budget vote on the horizon for Portland City Council. 

Trouble Off the Court 

The Trail Blazers’ director of basketball operations, Neil Olshey (whose name even non-fans may remember from a certain, pretty disastrous pre-season press conference introducing new coach Chauncey Billups) is facing hostile workplace complaints from front-office staff. The team has responded by hiring an outside firm to investigate the situation, which national media report includes allegations of screaming, curse-laden fits directed at employees. More to come on this one once the results of that investigation are released, but Olshey is a regular punching bag for Blazer fans frustrated that star Damian Lilliard has often seemed to be carrying the franchise without consistent help from his teammates. 

Season of Strikes 

And we don’t mean bowling (hey-o!). The deadline is looming for around 3,400 regional health care employees of Kaiser Permanente, who have been negotiating a new contract with their employers for months, with little to show for it. A cooling off period hasn’t yielded much momentum, and if no progress is made during the make-or-break week ahead, a strike could come on November 15. (One sign that things aren’t going well? The Portland Mercury notes that Kaiser’s been posting job ads for fill-in workers, should it come to a strike.) 

That’s Billion with a B 

President Joe Biden couldn’t resist the most pointed of jabs at his predecessor last week, when he declared that it was, at long last, finally infrastructure week, after Democrats in the US House cobbled together enough votes to pass the physical infrastructure portion of his Build Back Better budget bills. (The social-emotional infrastructure portion, which includes policies meant to support children and families, is still up for debate.) What does that mean for Oregon? An eye-popping $3.6 billion or so for road, public transportation, and bridge projects over the next five years, plus a fresh round of furious debate over plans to widen Interstate 5 over the Rose Quarter and build a new bridge over the Columbia River 

Budget Breakdown 

City Hall watchers know that when three hours is blocked off on Portland City Council’s agenda for discussion of a single topic, there is serious business at hand. And so it is this Wednesday, when the fall budgeting bump is up for debate. There’s way more money to spend than usual, thanks to larger than expected revenues from business taxes, and last week, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced plans to pour nearly $20 million of it into efforts to immediately address homelessness and trash on city streets, matched by a similarly sized commitment from Multnomah County. That proposal—plus more on policing, gun violence reduction and other city priorities—will get dissected at Wednesday’s meeting. One big unknown: How long it will actually take to get all these good intentions operational, should the plan pass. 

Shots in Arms 

If your social media feed, like ours, filled up over the weekend with kids ages 5-11 getting their first shots, prepare for more of the same in the week ahead. The roll-out of shots for kids has been a little halting, with appointments getting snapped up early and some people reporting no opening for weeks on end, but pediatricians and pharmacies are getting in gear to respond to the first wave of demand, however belatedly. All those shots could pay off for the rest of us in a big way: The Oregon Health Authority has estimated that if 60 percent of eligible elementary school-aged kids get their shots, it will reduce the percentage of Oregonians still susceptible to a serious case of the virus down to 20 percent. 

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