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5 Oregon Stories to Watch This Week, January 24–30

A census of the tricounty area's homeless population, final results from the Newberg school board election and Kristof v. Oregon briefs due in court

By Julia Silverman January 24, 2022

This week, Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties will work together to do the first count of the area’s homeless population in two years, since before the onset of the pandemic.

Is it just us, or does it feel like 2022 has already lasted for an entire year—and it’s only the last week of January? There's reason for hope though: We’re quickly gaining daylight and by the end of this week, the sun won’t be setting until about a quarter past five. All that vitamin D should help us power through what promises to be yet another extremely busy news week: Here are the stories that deserve a spot on your radar screen in the week ahead. 

A Day in Court

All eyes in #orpol world turn to the Oregon Supreme Court this week, where former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is due to file a response by Wednesday to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s contention that he does not meet the residency requirements necessary to run for governor in Oregon. Fagan filed her own brief late last week, expanding on her argument that Kristof’s legal residence for most of the past three years was in New York state, not Oregon. Kristof has argued, however, that he has always considered Oregon his home, even after years spent living elsewhere; his lawyers contend that removing him from the ballot would be tantamount to voter suppression. A decision is expected fairly quickly from the state’s highest judges, in order to give elections clerks across the state plenty of time to prepare ballots for this spring’s primary election. 

Help for Renters, but Hurry Up

Also on Wednesday, the gates will open again for Oregon’s emergency rental assistance program, which was temporarily suspended last month after officials said they had reached the end of available federal aid dollars. There’s now a new infusion of $100 million in state dollars to help those in need, but much of that could be claimed in short order by those who filed previous claims. Still, thousands of renters who need help paying their rent to avoid eviction could be able to get it, though they’ll need to act fast. State officials say the application window will last only about a month before closing again due to lack of funding. 

Until Next Time, Newberg

The year is young, but there has already been at least one consequential election in Oregon: last week’s school board recall in Newberg. Board chair Dave Brown and Vice Chair Brian Shannon were both facing recalls after backing a ban on so-called “divisive” political symbols and abruptly firing the school district’s well-respected superintendent. In a very high turnout for a special election, the two appear to have hung onto their seats, but—due to a new Oregon law that allows for the counting of ballots so long as they are postmarked on the day of the election—this one’s not quite over yet. The last of those votes should come trickling in this week. 

Do Your Snow Dance

Remember that sunshine we’re getting all week? It will improve your mood, most likely, but it isn’t great for our ongoing drought. (And no one wants to think about this, but wildfire season isn’t all that terribly far away.) Really, what the state needs is more rain and mountain snow, and lots of it, to set us up for a non (or less) smoke-marred summer and harvest. The good news is that rain is back in the forecast, starting this coming weekend, and likely persisting through the start of February at least. 

A Census for the Houseless

Finally, here’s a story that’s notable because it’s not making headlines: As the end of January approaches, we’re almost a month into when six “Safe Rest Villages” were supposed to be up and running to provide safe, temporary shelter for Portland’s ever-expanding houseless population, albeit just a tiny fraction of such. Instead, there are ... none. Last week, the Portland Public Schools Board squelched the city’s hopes of putting one of the villages at the site of the former Whitaker Middle School, saying that the land might be needed for a new school someday. Meanwhile, this week, for the first time in two years, city and county workers from across the Portland metro area will fan out to do a “point in time” count on Wednesday, to get a better handle on just how many people are now living on the streets and in shelters.