It's been a few weeks since News Editor Bill and I posted an update. Bill has been making phone calls to campaign supporters, and I've been working to respond to the 900+ emails from constituents that piled up in my work inbox during the primary. Please be patient if you're still waiting to hear from me.... and please call or email the campaign if you can help Bill and the rest of Sunshine's team with calls to volunteers.
I'm delighted to start this update with an Op-Ed by Tobi Rates, the Executive Director of the Autism Society of Oregon. Headlined "Portland does the right thing for health care by covering autism treatment," the commentary notes, "At the insistence of Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman, those covered by the city of Portland's health insurance plans will now be able to receive timely and effective medical treatment for autism." Please read the article for all the important details. I will continue partnering with advocates for children experiencing autism, by pursuing similar changes at the State Legslature in 2013. Autism coverage is another issue on which the Legislature has failed to act, and the City of Portland got the job done with my actions on the Council.
For something completely different, but no less serious, a news story in the Oregonian express concerns of West Hayden Island residents and environmental advocates about the Port of Portland's plans for developing 300 acres on the island.
The June 15th article noted that Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland, "resigned from the process because the process is a sham." He noted that the documents for the project were released too late for members to make intelligent critiques. Also, he asserts the City should have more control than the Port, but, as some of the documents note (PDF):
"West Hayden Island is currently outside of the city limits and is subject to Multnomah County Zoning, although this zoning is implemented by the city. In order to bring this land within the city limits, the city’s Comprehensive Plan Map must be amended and several Comprehensive Plan policies need to be amended. Due to the relationship between the Comprehensive Plan and the Transportation System Plan overseen by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), amendments to the Comprehensive Plan can also trigger amendments to the PBOTs Transportation System Plan (TSP)."
Steve Duin's latest column on the issue describes a community meeting five days later filled with unhappy West Hayden Island residents, Audobon's Bob Sallinger, Jonna Papaefthimiou, the Mayor's planning and sustainability policy advisor, Ron Schmidt, chairman of the Hayden Island Neighborhood Network, and Tom Bizeau, my Chief of Staff, among others. As each of the studies I called for in the Resolution setting expectations for this process are published, it becomes ever more clear to me that we should be giving more weight to regional planning including all the ports along the Columbia - Vancouver, Longview, and others. It doesn't make sense for jobs and prices, to set up a new Port facility on Hayden Island in competition with Vancouver -- where there are up to 750 acres of developable industrial land.
As we moved into summer (yay for warm weather, at last!), the Oregonian reported that Corporate Knights Magazine, a Canadian publication, ranked Portland, Seattle and San Francisco as the three greenest cities in the United States. We were featured for our best practices in transportation, highlighting, Tri-Met's MAX and WES, the tram between OHSU and the South Waterfront, the streetcar and our pedestrian bridges and bike lanes.
Some of the report was made out of date by Tri-Met's new budget, however: the Free Rail Zone, which will be going the way of Fareless Square. Mayor Adams asserts he agreed to the loss of the Free Rail Zone in return for TriMet continuing to fund the YouthPass program providing free passes for Portland Public School high school students. Negotiations on this issue have now resumed, following the Mayor's power play threatening to increase the City's charges to TriMet. I've heard the Mayor put the ordinance assessing new charges on the Consent Agenda (no discussion) because he was confident I would have pulled the item for review if TriMet hadn't. Everyone in City Hall knows my staff and I review every item on every week's City Council Agenda with keen eyes on details. When I first took office in 2009, this approach caused some alarm -- "Why are you questioning our work?", we heard. Now, my staff and I often hear from staff outside my bureaus that they truly appreciate our interest in their products, and our careful attention to every line.
The big news story the weekend before July 4 was the Oregon Liquor Control Commission announcing that the office of Attorney General John Kroger reversed a 1994 AG opinion that OLCC has used to encourage the City to apply for an Alcohol Impact Area downtown. The AIA would have restricted sales of high alcohol, high volume alcoholic beverages downtown. It was intended to be a component of a comprensive approach to addressing downtown's ongoing challenges caring for intoxicated people on downtown streets and sidewalks. Portland's taxpayers spent more than $1 million last year just in the cost of transport and care at the Hooper Detox sobering facility. That doesn't count the cost of police officers and Office of Neighborhood Involvement staff, in the Liquor Licensing section and our Crime Prevention specialists, who spend countless hours addressing the problems caused by irresponsible use of alcohol downtown. As reported in the Portland Tribune, after the City spent $55,000 to show the need for an AIA, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission informed me that it had no control over this because AG Kroger overturned the opinion made in 1994. I have asked for both the 1994 and 2012 opinions.
As KGW noted, "after 1,200 hours of work on the Portland streets by police and staff over the last two years, it all came to a halt" when the decision was handed down June 28th. This is despite work in Washington state showing that an AIA controlling sales of high alcohol drinks reduces public intoxication.
I am considering next steps, in partnership with City staff and State legislators.