New! The Weekly Churn

Cycling Capitol of America’s Cycling Capitol, Corvallis
According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Oregon has a larger share of bicycle commuters than any other state. Just over 2% of Oregonian commuters ride bikes. Washington, D.C. technically rates higher, at almost 5%, but as The Oregonian correctly notes, “It’s a city and not really a state. So whatever. We’re crossing it out.”

The Oregonian surveyed which cities have the highest rates of cycle commuting, and chose Corvallis as their champion. Their survey showed 12.09% of commuters in Corvallis rode bikes. They note that “[some] rankings…on this list [have] high margins of error.”

Not Corvallis, though: “But first place? That crown is mathematically sound.”

Community survey rates city services
Corvallis’ city government conducted a community survey back in 2018 with 1,600 randomly chosen residents, and here’s the results:

The fire department, ambulance, and emergency medical services each received 94% approval. The police department received only 79% approval, but 90% rated “the attitude and behavior of officers as excellent or good.” Over 90% said they feel safe both at home and downtown.

Corvallis-Benton County Public Library received 94% approval, city parks received 93%, while recreation centers and programs received 80%.

Only 9% said that the city has quality, affordable housing, “down from 36 percent as recently as 2010.” The share of residents who approve of housing options has dropped in half over eight years, from 51% in 2010 to 23% in 2018.

Approval for street conditions and maintenance also shrank to 33% in 2018, down from 57% in 2009. 

Fire at South Corvallis restaurant leads to fatal crash
Corvallis resident and business owner Grant Converse died in a tragic vehicle accident that occurred around 9 p.m. on Monday night, New Year’s Eve. Reportedly, Converse was responding to a call about a fire located at Sharon’s Cafe, in the same shopping center as Converse’s business, Corvallis Furniture. 

Converse was on his way to check on his business when his truck, according to initial police reports, suffered unspecified “mechanical issues,” preventing him from stopping. Converse’s wife and daughter, who were in the truck with him, were able to jump out safely, while he sustained serious injuries. Converse was taken to Good Samartian Regional Medical Center where, tragically, he passed away around noon on Tuesday, January 1. 

Girl Scout told that Scout patch is “just for boys”
Event staff at an OSU women’s basketball ‘Scout game’ last weekend told a 7-year-old Girl Scout that she couldn’t have one of the patches being offered for attendance because they were “just for boys.” 

The Scout’s mother took this story to Facebook, where it went viral, eventually garnering a response from OSU. Steve Clark, vice president of OSU Relations, told KGW8 that it was a “mistake and shouldn’t have happened,” also telling KEZI, “We’re apologetic that someone made that statement…that’s not our plan.” OSU has contacted the family, apologized, and offered their daughter a free patch.

State investigation finds capitol to be a hostile workplace
A five-month investigation by the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) declared the state capitol a hostile workplace. The report cites Sen. Sara Gelser’s experience trying to bring attention to ongoing harassment claims against former Sen. Jeff Kruse, which The Advocate reported on in December. 

OPB said the report “offers damning details,” including accounts of various legislative leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, attempting to stifle Gelser’s complaints. An unnamed Republican lawmaker told Gelser the Conduct Committee would “rip her to shreds.” Republican Senate Minority Leader Jackie Winters reportedly told Gelser she had to “learn how to deal” with Kruse. The report also contains accounts of Democrats Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland and Senate Majority Leader Peter Courtney trying to dissuade Gelser from publicizing her complaints, including Kotek telling Gelser it was difficult to take her case because she was “unlikable” in the Senate, and Courtney yelling at her in a cafe while discussing harassment.

Both Kotek and Courtney have disputed the report’s characterizations, each stating their commitment to a harassment-free workplace. 

Outgoing Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian told OPB he contacted legislative leaders multiple times about these issues, offering corrective guidance and warning of potential investigations based on complaints BOLI received, but instead reacted defensively to the investigation and its findings.  

State legislature moves to pass first-in-nation rent control bill
Willamette Week obtained a document last week confirming plans by the state legislature to propose capping rent increases at 7 percent plus inflation in buildings over 15 years old. This is lower than the 10 percent rate reportedly sought by real estate and landlord interests, but higher than the 5 percent rate that tenants advocate.

The plan reportedly already has support from Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), with expected support from Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem).

The document also details a new provision, which protects landlords’ right to no-cause evictions during a tenant’s first year, but after that time requires landlords to provide reason for the eviction and cover relocation costs in the form of one month’s rent. Real estate and property interests in the legislature have said they would back the limit on rent increases if this evictions provision were relaxed.

Still uncertain is support from Governor Kate Brown, who is skeptical of rent control as the solution to Oregon’s affordable housing crisis. Similar-minded critics believe the solution is less state control on the housing industry, not more. The legislature reconvenes on January 22.

Eugene Mayor: On homelessness, “failure to act is not a choice”
In an annual State of the City address, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis said her top priority for the city in 2019 is “bringing the unsheltered indoors.”

“The continued suffering in our midst is unconscionable,” Vinis told the crowd, “Failure to act is not a choice.”

Mayor Vinis was formerly the development director at ShelterCare, a social service provider in Eugene. Her speech comes a few weeks before the scheduled release of a consultant’s report to Eugene and Lane County, offering recommendations for the construction of a public homeless shelter and supportive housing. A preliminary report showed 130 people are becoming homeless in Lane County each month.

We’re gonna need a bigger bong: OR grew over a million pounds of pot last year
For the second time in the two years since legalization, Oregon has produced over one million pounds of marijuana. While a glut of product is good news for consumers as prices go down, it bodes poorly for growers with overstocked shelves already headed into another growing season.

Marijuana’s unusual legal status, as a legal agricultural product in Oregon, however a Schedule 1 federal narcotic most everywhere else, has created an equally unusual business challenge: there is not nearly enough demand for the supply. According to Willamette Week, if Oregonians continue to purchase cannabis at the same rate as in 2018, we’re sitting on a seven-year supply. 

The state legislature may be gearing up to deal with this issue in the new session. Cannabis advocates and some politicians, like Eugene Senator Floyd Prozanski, plan to introduce legislation that would allow Oregon’s Governor to establish “pacts” with other legal states, allowing export of excess products. 

Wyden, Blumenauer bill wants to take Oregon’s vote-by-mail nationwide
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) introduced legislation in Congress aimed at increasing participation and reducing voter suppression around the country. This bill is part of a larger package of legislation known in D.C. as House Resolution 1 or HR 1, a series of bills which incoming Democrats in the House promised to begin passing upon taking the majority. 

According to Vox, HR 1 “covers three main planks: campaign finance reform, strengthening the government’s ethics laws, and expanding voting rights.” Along with Wyden and Blumenauer’s bill, HR 1 also contains “sweeping anti-corruption measures” such as making Election Day a federal holiday, requiring online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to disclose the identities and payments of anyone posting political ads, and preventing legislators from using public money to settle sexual harassment and discrimination cases.

By Ian MacRonald