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5 Oregon Stories to Watch, December 13–19

A special session in Salem, the race to replace DeFazio, and more

By Julia Silverman December 13, 2021

Congressman Peter DeFazio has announced his retirement, and the race to replace him is on.

All the action is in Salem this week, as lawmakers from around Oregon converge on the state Capital for yet another special session (at least, that’s the plan. Who knows what will really happen? The Republicans have walked out before, and they just might do it again.) The goings-on there will be this week’s marquee story, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty else cooking around town. Here’s what else you need to know for the week ahead. 

A Very Special Session

The main focus of Monday’s special session is on housing, specifically on eviction prevention for renters and long-term housing assistance for all. We broke it down for you here, but that’s not the only thing on lawmakers’ radars. They’ll also consider setting aside $18 million for Afghani refugee resettlement, $25 million to tamp down illegal cannabis operations, which are especially prolific in southern Oregon, and $100 million for aid to Oregon farmers affected by last summer’s drought and wildfires. Note that those last two earmarks are more likely to affect rural Oregonians who are represented by Republicans—that’s one way to get them to show up at the table, we guess. 

Is it Winter Break Yet?

The Portland school board reconvenes in full this Tuesday, for the first time (in public anyway) since the Portland Association of Teachers and the district began a contentious round of negotiations over the teachers’ ask for more planning days, flex days, and early release days to be added to the calendar, starting right after winter break. Look for some pushback on this from board members, who’ve just finished reviewing a depressing amount of information about academic losses after 15 months of remote learning. Bargaining negotiations resume on December 16, but the two sides remain pretty far apart; no word yet on what to expect if they don’t reach an agreement before the winter holidays. Meanwhile, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero was on the list for the top job at the Los Angeles Unified School District, but didn’t get the call. But other big-city school districts, including nearby San Diego, are also looking for new leadership; something tells us this story's not over yet.

Round 2 On Historic Preservation

Over at the Portland City Council, strap in for a second go-around of conversations on the historic resources code project, coming up this Wednesday. It may sound arcane, but it’s got profound implications for historic preservation proponents on the one hand, and those who suggest relaxing rules to create more affordable housing opportunities on the other. (Of course, it’s not that simple—it never is. Read more about that plan here, and tune in for some sure to be fiery rhetoric over zoning’s finer points.)

Good-bye, DeFazio, Hello ??

Congressman Peter DeFazio’s announcement that he is bowing out of his seat after nearly 40 years in Congress has set off a stampede to replace him—and more hopefuls might just make it official in the week ahead. Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle is already in the race, but State Sens. Sara Gelser Blouin of Corvallis and James Manning of Eugene are both also mulling runs; on the Republican side, Douglas County’s Alex Skarlatos, who challenged DeFazio in 2020, reportedly wants another crack at the seat—but it’s worth noting that after the district’s boundaries were redrawn this year, it’s more of an uphill climb for the GOP. 

12 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas

Last but not least: We’re officially under the two week countdown to Christmas. Which means, if you haven’t gone shopping for those on your list’re almost out of time. Definitely don’t order online at this point, given the supply chain disruptions that continue to cause backlogs worldwide. Instead, check our list of great local markets and pop-ups to keep it extra local this season. 


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