5 Stories to Watch this Week, January 17–23
It’s been a minute, Portland, but we’re back, and just in the nick of time. After that holiday lull, the news around here has kicked into the highest of gears, what with all the political intrigue surrounding the governor’s race, the rise of a new generation of powerbrokers as some of the state’s longest serving public officials bow out, a pandemic that just won’t quit and, oh yeah, the tsunami that wasn’t, quite, on the Oregon Coast. Here’s what you should be watching for this week to stay au courant.
Remember when Portland was ‘The City That Works?’ That slogan could sustain another blow this week if city employees in six separate labor unions decide to stage one mega-strike. The District Council of Trade Unions, which represents around 1,100 city employees, has been negotiating over wages and bonuses for seniority for months now. Their members include city plumbers, electricians, painters, machinists and more who keep city bureaus humming. Both sides are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, January 18 for a negotiating session.
Policing the Police
Another week, another dump of stories about the fracturing relationship between the Portland Police Bureau and the community it serves. Late last week, the city tried to get ahead of documents that were to be presented in a court case by releasing a dangerous and derogatory slide included in a presentation given to officers before they were assigned to political protest shifts. The slide trafficks in offensive imagery, implying that the police were facing protesters who “hast dreadlocks and white skin,” and that the best tactic was to “anoint..faces with pepper spray,” leaving them “cuffed and stuffed, stitched and bandaged.” Meanwhile, before the end of this month, the city is expected to release a review by an outside contractor hired to investigate systemic “racial and political bias” at the Portland Police Bureau, Willamette Week reports.
Omicron, Be Gone
Per the data crunchers at Oregon Health & Sciences University, Oregon’s omicron-propelled surge in COVID-19 cases is expected to crest within the next 10 days. Last week, the state’s seven day rolling average of cases fell for the first time in a month, though that could be do in part to a widespread testing shortage. Hospitalizations have been climbing, but not as dramatically as cases, and intensive care unit and ventilator usage have not seen similarly sharp upticks. One key indicator may lie underground; samples of COVID-19 detected in wastewater have been declining across the Northeast and in parts of California in recent days. Oregon is due to release a new round of wastewater data by the middle of this week, and we’ll be watching to see if similar dips show up there. (Meanwhile, should you want to take advantage of free rapid COVID tests available via the federal government, sign up for that starting on Wednesday at COVIDtests.gov.)
Normally, tickets to watch the Timbers and the Thorns are among the hottest in our soccer-mad town. But with the deadline to renew season tickets looming on Friday, some die-hard fans are hesitating, given the team’s handling of recent reports of sexual misconduct by a former coach, among other issues. Fan groups, including the Timbers Army and the Rose City Riveters, are upset over what they see as a lack of transparency and accountability around the ongoing investigation of how the team handled the incident. The booster groups, which used to meet monthly with front office executives, are no longer doing so; in a statement to ESPN, team officials said that fan groups needed to be “more inclusive and open to differing viewpoints from its small group of leadership.”
Zoom School Redux
Has it really only been two full weeks since winter break? Forgive us for feeling otherwise, given the torrent of news of school closures and, in some cases, reopenings that have come since then, as schools struggle to remain open while educators, support staff, and students cope with quarantines and illness due to the omicron surge. As we enter week three, some patterns are emerging: High schools and middle schools are more likely to close than elementary schools, and closures are more common among higher-needs districts in north and northeast Portland and in eastern Multnomah County than they are in the more prosperous southern and western suburbs. This week presents an interesting test case when Cleveland and McDaniel High Schools, the first in Portland to close, will reopen; meanwhile, families across the metro area are staying braced for their own school to be next on the closure list.