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5 Oregon Stories To Watch This Week, February 7–13

Contracts for the police, the Portland schools superintendent, and the short session continues in Salem.

By Julia Silverman February 7, 2022

The Portland Police are in the news this week, as details of their new contract are released and the debate over body-worn cameras intensifies.

Sure, it’s still February, but signs of spring are surfacing around the Portland area—look closely and you’ll see daffodils popping up in yards, daphne in full bloom, and campaigns starting to realize that the May primary is just three short months away. More good news: The Omicron surge is starting to recede, particularly in the Portland area, raising hopes that said spring can bring a true reset after two years of pandemic stop-and-starts. While we wait, here’s the news you need to keep an eye on this week. 

New Rules on Masks

Don’t get ahead of yourself—the pandemic’s not over yet. To solidfy that, the Oregon Health Authority is expected to file a rule with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to indefinitely extend the state’s mandate on indoor masking in public spaces, which would otherwise expire on Monday. Health officials say that the rule won’t be in place forever, but just until it is deemed no longer necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 and keep the health care system from being overrun. They have not set specific targets but have said that any decision to lift the indoor masking rule will be dependent upon case counts, hospitalizations, and vaccination/booster rates, among other factors.

Spotlight on Salem

The action continues in Salem this week during the so-called short session. Watch for movement on bills aimed at increasing overtime pay for agricultural workers, and granting the right to vote to adults who are in the penal system. Gov. Kate Brown has also entered the chat, via her state of the state address last week, in which she called for a $200 million investment in workforce development programs, plus another $100 million in aid for Oregon’s strained-at-the-seams early childcare education programs. Not every bill will make it to the finish line, especially given the compressed time frame; to have a shot, bills will need to have a work session on the calendar by early this week.

A Contract for the Portland Police...

The Portland Police are back in the news this week. (What else is new?) After almost two years of wrangling, the city and the police bureau have reached an accord on a new labor agreement, further details of which are set to be released on Tuesday. There’s lots of questions about the details of the agreement, including whether the union has signed off on an expanded role for Portland Street Response, how officer discipline policies might evolve, and what the future holds for the use of body cameras on members of the force. (Not to mention pay increase scales.) More details, followed by a public Q and A session with the city’s labor negotiators later in the week.

...But Questions, too, on Body Cameras

Speaking of PPB and body cameras, the issue also surfaces in front of the Portland City Council this week. On February 9, city council members will take a key vote on giving the city the go-ahead to get bids for providing the more than 600 body-worn cameras proposed by Mayor Ted Wheeler. All that equipment is expected to cost $2.6 million—but there’s still no official word on whether police would get to review any collected footage before it is released to investigators, a practice frowned upon by the U.S. Department of Justice. According to both sides involved in the aforementioned contract negotiations, agreements over body camera footage protocol are still being ironed out.

Three More Years

One more piece of news on contracts: The Portland School Board takes up an important one on Tuesday night, when they’ll be considering a proposed contract for Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. Guerrero has been in Portland and with the district since 2017, which is a long tenure for a superintendent, but the new contract would see him sticking around through the 2023-2024 school year, at least. It includes a base salary of $322,354 a year, plus additional retirement benefits and bonuses for getting the district’s Black and other historically underserved kids to make demonstrated gains in reading and math scores while in elementary school.

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