7/20/2023 News Roundup


<<Dozens of Portland nonprofits, businesses, advocacy groups and state lawmakers are urging the city’s elected officials to fully fund and expand Portland Street Response, the city program that sends mental health workers — instead of police — to 911 calls related to people having behavioral health crises outside.

The coalition released a petition Monday calling on Portland City Council to take its nascent alternative first response program seriously.

“As community members who support the expansion of our public safety system to include effective unarmed alternatives to police such as Portland Street Response, we are asking the Portland City Council to stick to their promise: that they champion and expand Portland Street Response,” the petition from the newly formed group Friends of Portland Street Response said.

This coalition is composed of 40 organizations and local figures, including Sisters of the Road, Think Real Estate, Urban League of Portland, Blanchet House and Revant Optics. The petition also has the backing of Portland-area elected officials, like Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, and state representatives Khanh Pham, Rob Nosse Maxine Dexter, and Lisa Reynolds. They’re united in their support of Portland Street Response. The program was established by Portland City Council in 2020 as a pilot program within Portland Fire & Rescue, and has since grown to respond to emergencies citywide.

The letter comes after a tumultuous few months for the program, which saw leadership churn, staff morale tank, and financial uncertainty.

In January, City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez was appointed to oversee Portland Fire & Rescue after defeating former fire commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. Hardesty spearheaded the launch of Portland Street Response at the city, and ensured the program had the funding and support needed to grow in recent years.

Gonzalez cautiously pumped the brakes on this work after entering office, first by ordering a hiring freeze across Portland Fire & Rescue and then restricting Portland Street Response staff from distributing tents to clients experiencing homelessness. Due to the staff shortages, Portland Street Response was unable to complete a planned expansion to 24/7 operation at the start of the year. This shortage has also kept the program from qualifying for federal grant dollars that could ensure long-term funding, which the program currently lacks.

In June, the inaugural manager for Portland Street Response resigned, further stoking unrest among staff.

Monday’s petition points to these issues, and others, as problems all Portland City Council members should urgently address.

“It is clear that this incredibly popular, effective, and desperately needed program is now at risk,” the letter reads. “As friends of Portland Street Response, we are united in our unequivocal support for the original goals of PSR and the specific actions needed to restore and support the program.”

These obstacles come during a period of measured success for the program: A recent analysis by Portland State University found that the program has met its intended goal to reduce police officer workloads and steer people with mental health needs away from jail. But this news received little recognition in City Hall.

Laura Golino de Lovato is the director of Northwest Pilot Project, a nonprofit that offers housing assistance to older low-income adults that has signed in support of the petition. She said her staff and clients have both found Portland Street Response to be invaluable when clients have experienced mental health crises. She doesn’t understand why city leadership doesn’t appear to see the program’s value.

“It seems like there’s already been sort of a predetermination of not wanting to support [Portland Street Response],” de Lovato said. “That seems a very deliberate and intentional way of wanting to make the program go away.”

De Lovato said she hopes the petition demonstrates to council members how respected and supporting Portland Street Response is across the city — and, ideally, inspires action.

“City Council is really missing a chance to be bold and to engage with the community to come up with a solution,” she said. “I wish that they would see that that’s an opportunity to really change Portland for the better.”

The group plans on circulating the petition to collect additional signatories before delivering it to Portland City Council.>>



<<Back in the 1990s, when methamphetamine was made in bathtubs and nobody in Oregon had heard of fentanyl, a Central Eastside “sobering center” where people could sleep off booze or narcotics served as many as 20,000 people a year, according to a consultant’s report.

First responders and the CHIERS wagon—a van that did nothing except pick up heavily intoxicated Portlanders—dropped them off at 444 NE Couch St.

For the past three and a half years, however—even as Oregon’s substance use disorder rates stayed among the nation’s highest—the sobering center served the same number: just about none.

That’s because, in the greatest explosion of drug overdoses in Oregon history, the city and the county have not figured out how to replace the sobering facility, which closed in early 2020.

Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland says that’s a disgrace. “There’s a desperate need,” Renaud says, “and a total lack of urgency—if the will was there, we could open one in six weeks.”

For now, people who might otherwise go to a sobering and detox center crowd into hospital emergency rooms or stay on the streets. (About 22,000 people a year visit local hospital ERs for substance use disorders.)

A small ray of hope: With funding from CareOregon, the state’s largest Medicaid provider, and some city and county money, Providence Health and Legacy’s Unity Center are opening nine and eight sobering beds, respectively. But most observers see that as a stop-gap measure.>>



<<The first temporary alternative mass shelter site is slated to open later this month at an inner Southeast Portland industrial space known as the Clinton Triangle.

What was initially pitched by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office last fall as part of a $27 million homelessness plan to serve up to 250 people in tents at each of three designated sites, has evolved significantly. The first outdoor temporary alternative shelter site, or TASS, as the city calls it, looks more akin to one of the Safe Rest Villages already in operation.

The TASS will open just weeks after the city’s recent daytime camping restrictions take effect, albeit with a slow rollout and legal challenges already in play. Residents must be referred by a city, county, or nonprofit outreach partner. The site won’t serve walk-up guests.

Nestled between the Brooklyn and Hosford-Abernethy neighborhoods, a large asphalt lot at the former Stacy & Whitbeck industrial space at Southeast 13th Avenue and Powell Boulevard will soon house 140 sleeping pods, which can accommodate up to 200 people. Each pod has an air conditioning and heating unit, and a bed. Showers, toilets and a laundry area have been installed in a converted shipping container on the lot.

At the west end of the site, an industrial commercial building will include a kitchen and storage space, and serve as onsite staff office space.

The low-barrier, adult shelter site will be managed by Urban Alchemy, the California-based company that now manages two other homeless villages in Portland. Urban Alchemy will provide round-the-clock staffing and at least one daily meal for residents, who will also have access to case workers and health services provided by Central City Concern, Health Share, and CareOregon.

Residents must check in and out when entering or leaving, and follow security measures, including a prohibition on weapons.

Kirkpatrick Tyler, chief of government and community affairs for Urban Alchemy, lauded the efforts to open the shelter.

“The fight against homelessness is the fight for our lives,” Tyler said. “When we’re in the fight for our lives, we double down on the most innovative ideas that allow us to break new ground in how we serve people and how we see one another.”

Residents are expected to start moving in at the new TASS later this month, on a referral basis.

Portland city commissioners, alongside Multnomah County leaders, unveiled the new alternative shelter site Monday, July 17.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called the TASS an “innovative approach” to the city’s skyrocketing rate of homelessness.

“There’s hundreds of unsanctioned camps spread out over all 146 square miles of our city, and because of the dispersed nature of our unsheltered homeless population, there has been no consistent way of successfully providing outreach to those in need,” Wheeler said.

The Clinton Triangle TASS is one of three shelters the city is opening this month. Two Safe Rest Villages–Sunderland RV Park in Northeast Portland, and Reedway Safe Rest Village in Southeast Portland–have also started accepting residents.

Wheeler’s initial TASS plan drew heavy criticism from homeless advocates, and comparisons to a “concentration camp” approach to transitional shelter. It was largely the brainchild of Sam Adams, the mayor’s former chief of staff who also served as mayor of Portland over a decade ago.

The change in site details–from a mass tent-based shelter for up to 250 people, to a pod-based village–is due in large part to a lack of funding for the initial iteration of the plan.

When Gov. Tina Kotek took office, she rejected funding for the site, noting it didn’t qualify as shelter eligible for state or federal funding.

“The governor made her funding contingent upon us using pods, which we were happy to do,” Wheeler said Monday. “The only reason we didn’t do pods initially is that the cost of pods is a lot more than tents.”

Wheeler noted the site still includes designated areas for tents, because some residents prefer tents to pods, but the vast majority of the footprint will be occupied by pods.

“The key is to get them in here and have them begin to work with service coordinators and be connected to whatever services they need to get off and stay off the streets,” Wheeler added.

The TASS was the byproduct of city plans, but will include help from the Joint Office of Homeless Services. Wheeler said the city has funding for three mass shelter sites, and hopes to secure additional funds once the others are up and operational.

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson said the new TASS “is built in a way that utilizes thoughtful, equitable, and trauma-informed strategies.”

Vega Pederson said the site will help bolster the number of available shelter beds in the region.

“We know one of the things we need most right now is increased capacity across our system,” she said. “From shelter that’s congregate, to alternative shelter, to long-term affordable housing, we need this capacity because  what we’re really talking about are people’s lives.”>>


<<By the end of the month, Portland intends to open the first of six planned large outdoor homeless shelters.

On Monday, local politicians met at the Clinton Triangle Temporary Alternative Shelter Site, located at Southeast Gideon Street and Southeast 13th Avenue, to preview the new shelter. The event carried a celebratory tone after months of delays and debate around the controversial program.

“While Portlanders navigate the complex and often years-long waiting lists for affordable housing, we must provide safe and stable shelter opportunities in the interim,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler at a morning press conference.

The city’s largest homeless shelter will hold 140 sleeping pods to accommodate an estimated 200 Portlanders experiencing homelessness. The site contains bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, a dog run and a kitchen where local nonprofit Feed the Mass will provide at least one warm meal a day. Several of the pods and bathrooms are accessible for people with disabilities.

The space also offers 20 tents on wooden platforms for people who may not be comfortable sleeping indoors.

This program was first approved by Portland City Council in November in conjunction with a proposal to ban street camping by 2024, but has encountered a few delays along the way. It was originally designed to only offer tent shelters, but the state threatened to withhold funding until the city committed to building sleeping pods.

In April, Gov. Tina Kotek approved spending more than $6 million in state dollars to address homelessness in the metro region, allowing the city to purchase the sleeping pods. More recently, Multnomah County pledged to commit more than $4 million toward the program in its annual budget.

As of now, the city only has money to open and run three of these six planned large-scale outdoor shelters. Wheeler said that state lawmakers will discuss funding the additional sites once they see evidence that the initial three are effective.

“They want us to prove that we can make it work,” Wheeler said. “I am 100% confident that we will.”>>



<<The union representing workers at Cascadia Health says its members were raising concerns about their safety on the job, well before a mental health aide was killed at work over the weekend.

Haley Rogers died while working an overnight shift by herself at a small residential treatment facility owned and operated by Cascadia in Gresham. A client, James Smith, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

Rogers was a member of Oregon AFSCME Local 1790, which has been negotiating a new contract with Cascadia Health since May.

Liz O’Connor, a Cascadia employee and a bargaining unit representative, says they surveyed their members this year.

“The number one thing that people asked to talk about and review in our contract was safety,” she said.

O’Connor says several issues that directly relate to the apparent circumstances of Rogers’ death have been part of the negotiations.

Those include how to enforce a no-weapons policy while allowing clients some degree of privacy, the potential for staff to wear alarms that trigger a call for outside help and ending or limiting the practice of having overnight staff work solo shifts.

“The lower the staffing, the more risk there is,” O’Connor said.>>


<<Janet Meister teared up while listening to a voicemail her adult son Brett left her during a mental health crisis.

“You’re the dumbest ***** to ever walk the planet,” Brett Meister said in the voicemail. “And I’m going to torture you so ***** bad before I kill you, mark my words.”

Meister, recently retired from her work at Clackamas Community College, played the voicemail during an interview with KGW in her backyard, explaining how it’s representative of Brett’s deteriorating mental state when he’s off medication.

“Okay, so he’s not well,” Meister said, fighting back tears. “Now, six weeks later, he leaves me this message.”

She pressed play on her tablet.

“Hi mom, I was calling because I’m excited to tell you … I think we found the right medication mixture to deal with my chemical imbalance,” Brett Meister said in the voicemail. “You know how they say it takes quite a few years before you find the right medication … I think it’s wonderful news and outstanding and I’m thrilled. Anyways, love you, have a good night, bye.”

Meister, now smiling, pointed out how much had changed in just six weeks with involuntary treatment.

“So, quite the difference, huh,” she said. “I like him better in the second one.”>>

<<At the core of Brett Meister’s story is a lifetime of experiences with forced treatment for mental illness.

Brett has been civilly committed four separate times. Doctors, evaluators and a judge found his mental illness to be a serious threat to himself or others and sent him to the Oregon State Hospital for up to six months of involuntary care on each occasion.

KGW has previously reported on Oregon’s high standards for forced mental health treatment through the “Uncommitted” series.

Many people who turn down voluntary treatment are released from hospitals and end up homeless with debilitating mental illnesses.

They’re unable to seek care on their own, but can’t be forced into it. Brett Meister’s history offers a different view at the mental health crisis — an example of a person who has met state standards for involuntary treatment on multiple occasions, but has still been unable to get the long-term care he needs.

“The civil commitment hold is only good for six months and during that time he is required to take medication,” Janet Meister said. “But as soon as those six months are up, the pills go down the drain or in the trash or whatever and the clock starts ticking. Then, he gets sick again. It’s a horrible, vicious cycle that we haven’t found the magic cure to break.”

At times, Brett Meister lived with family or friends. He’s lived in a group home or subsidized housing, sometimes facing eviction. He’s stayed in hospitals, treatment facilities, jail and state institutions. More recently, he’s been living in a van or somewhere on the streets.>>

<<After decades of experiences with her son, including an incident when Brett was charged with fourth-degree assault for breaking his mother’s ribs, Janet said she believes forced treatment for people like her son should be required, not optional.

“Brett should never be off medication,” she said. “He’s not safe in the community, and the community is not safe with him in the community.”

Part of the problem for people like Brett — there can often be nowhere to go for treatment.

The Oregon State Hospital is accepting fewer and fewer civil commitment patients each year, prioritizing people who are facing criminal charges.

As a result, Oregon’s four largest health systems — Providence, Legacy, PeaceHealth and St. Charles — have sued the state health authority. The hospitals say they’re being forced to keep patients with serious mental illness for months in rooms that aren’t built for long term care.

However, a judge recently rejected the hospital systems’ latest motion in the lawsuit, siding with the Oregon Health Authority again.

Even when admitted to OSH for civil commitment and forced treatment, options upon release can be limited. Without the ability to compel people like Brett to continue medication, step-down facilities aren’t sustainable for long, Janet Meister said.

However, most people recognized with severe mental illness symptoms don’t reach that point.

In the Meister’s home of Clackamas County, doctors filed 3,116 “Notices of Mental Illness” over the five years between 2018 and 2022. NMIs are medical recommendations for forced care.

After county investigators reviewed the NMIs to see if the person met standards for forced treatment for mental illness, only 11% of those cases reached a judicial hearing, and 8% resulted in a civil commitment.

About 9 out of 10 times a doctor recommended involuntary care for severe mental illness symptoms in Clackamas County, the patient was either released for not meeting state thresholds or by agreeing to a voluntary treatment plan.>>



<<Deep behind the scenes, city commissioners (particularly Gonzalez and Ryan, and less recently Mapps) have been scheming to overturn the will of the voters, and after failing to sink charter reform at the ballot box last November, are now committed to watering down its provisions to ensure that those who’ve held the majority of power in the city for decades retain their stranglehold.

Despite the fact that the many members of our Charter Reform Commission spent months deeply researching how to most effectively rebuild our stumbling government—which included months of inviting the community to offer feedback and input—our current City Council is weirdly convinced that their uneducated predictions or “feelings” automatically trump the hundreds of hours of research that’s gone into this voter-mandated project. (Let’s call this “council-splaining.”)

Realizing charter reform will significantly reduce the power they and their wealthy pals have long enjoyed, City Council is desperately fighting to hobble the reform we voted in favor of, by proposing the following:

• Reducing the planned 12-person City Council to eight members. While the current council claims that paying 12 commissioners (three in each of the new Portland districts) would be too expensive, they never seem so theatrically concerned about spending taxpayer money to bolster wealthy neighborhood associations, or military-grade gear and other questionable toys for the police. But that’s not really the point, is it? There’s a reason the city’s power brokers desperately want these changes to charter reform: The smaller the council, the easier it can be controlled. More on that in just a bit!

• Reworking the proposed ranked choice voting system. Despite claiming they’re smart enough to hold their current offices, commissioners continually moan that the voting system proposed by charter reform advocates is “too confusing.” It’s true: “Math” can be very hard for some people (like me! Hi! 👋). But that’s why we have these things called “computers,” which have been tallying votes accurately for decades—so in actuality, when it comes time to vote, math haters (like me! Hi! 👋) won’t suffer from a cerebral melt-down. Guys, it’s really this simple:

On your ballot, vote for the person you like best for your #1 choice, the person you like second-best as your #2 choice, and the person you like least as your #3 choice. AND COMPUTERS WILL DO THE REST. Easy, right? I’d ask a kindergarten teacher to explain this to our current crop of commissioners, but we all know they’re actually more intent on sowing distrust in the new system rather than any so-called confusion over “math.”

And most tellingly:

• Giving the mayor veto power instead of just a tie-breaking vote. Whooo-whee! Council is really showing their cards with this one! Okay: Imagine in your worst nightmares, the conservative, blustering, and increasingly cruel Commissioner Rene Gonzalez becomes mayor (brrrr!!). If the current council’s plan was implemented, he’d have the ability to veto every single piece of progressive policy brought before the council. Think city policies are unnecessarily cruel now? Oh. Just you wait!

[Psst! By the way, didn’t you think it was FUNNY that Commissioner Mapps announced his intention to run for mayor just a few days before it was revealed that Council would be pushing for a mayor with veto power? Pretty much the same plan he floated last October? Wait… when I said “funny,” I actually meant “not at all coincidental.”]

BUT! Let’s give credit where credit is due, shall we? Because this scheme to sink charter reform didn’t start with this current crop of truly terrible commissioners.

The Portland Business Alliance (who recently changed its name to Portland Metro Council—probably due to their terrible reputation) has spent decades fighting to be the primary decision makers for the city.

In fact, city records show that over a 10-year span, the Alliance has lobbied City Hall a whopping 3,198 times—that’s six times more than the second most prolific lobbying group (Uber, who nagged the city a comparatively scant 494 times). And of the top five most prolific lobbyists, three of them hold high-level positions in… you guessed it: the Portland Business Alliance. (One might say these guys have a real “Lobby Hobby.” 😏 Ugh. I’ll show myself out.)

But wait, that’s not the worst of it: In 2020 alone, the city auditor caught the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) violating lobbying rules an astounding 25 times. And though they could’ve/should’ve been fined up to $75,000 for their blatant disregard of the rules, instead they were only given a quick slap on the wrist and told to pay a mere $450—roughly the cost of a side salad at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

Anyway, what does one get in return for this type of incessant lobbying? Here’s just one tiny example of many: During a 2022 public hearing on the council’s plan to criminalize homelessness, Commissioner Dan Ryan and Mayor Ted Wheeler made sure to let proponents from the wealthy business community speak first, before any of the public. So refresh my memory… has city hall ever put you at the front of the line with your concerns, or welcomed your input more than three thousand times? And knowing that, are you still under the impression the city prioritizes you over any wealthy person or lobbying group?

The PBA has always been threatened by charter reform, donated a whopping $131,000 to oppose it, and even filed an unsuccessful legal challenge last year to keep it off the ballot. And lest we forget, they also endorsed and helped seat every current member of City Council—except for Commissioner Rubio… who actually just joined her male cohorts in also casting doubt on the charter reform process. (The Alliance should send her a thank you note for being such a team player.)

So to assume the current city commissioners are not under the thrall of the Portland Business Alliance, is to admit naivety at best, and willful ignorance at worst.

The PBA desperately needs charter reform to fail, and here’s why:

Influencing the voting decisions of five commissioners may be very difficult, but it’s still attainable (as we all currently see). However, controlling 12 people? Who may be from diverse, less wealthy backgrounds? That’s too big of a job even for the ultra-rich, influential members of the Alliance. That’s why, though not ideal, the PBA still sees a narrow window for success with eight commissioners. In this scenario they just need a majority of votes (only five)—and if the mayor gets veto power, too? Suddenly, their dreams of continued domination are not impossible at all—and not very different from the current dysfunctional government that the majority of us clearly VOTED AGAINST.

So here’s my prediction: In the coming months, you’re going to see a full court press against charter reform—not only from City Council, but their co-conspirators in the Portland Business Alliance, People for Portland, and the various monied conservative factions of our city (as well as a PBA board member who also just so happens to be on the Oregonian’s Editorial Board), all of whom see this as their golden opportunity to maintain control over every major policy decision made in Portland.

This probable full court press will include negative billboards, fear-mongering email campaigns, glossy political fliers, and slanted, unreliable push polls whose results are often parroted without scrutiny by local media. So how much money does the Charter Reform Commission have in their budget to combat this coming onslaught of lies? Let me get out my calculator… oh, never mind… it’s ZERO.

And this is exactly why we need charter reform, to protect Portland from those who want to torpedo progressive policies… like charter reform!

So for every disparaging remark you hear about charter reform in the coming months—about how it’s going to cost so much money, or how terribly “confusing” it all is… and, trust me, you’re gonna hear A LOT MORE of these howls of desperation—just remember this one thing: The powerful will do or say anything to protect their power.>>


<<Portland voters sent two contradictory messages with their ballots last November.

They elected a City Council as centrist as any in recent memory. They also resoundingly approved a ballot measure intended to usher in the most progressive and diverse council possible come 2025.

The result: A majority of the city commissioners currently occupying council chambers are political opponents of the future council that voters have decreed will replace them in two years.

Now, two current council members—Rene Gonzalez and Dan Ryan—have proposed three significant changes to charter reforms approved in 2022.

But, already hamstrung by a rocky rollout and one commissioner softening his stance toward the whole idea, the attempt to tweak charter reform looks less like trying to build a time machine and more like a bad sequel to a fight Portland voters already settled last year.

On Tuesday, the City Council discussed the three changes in an hourslong public work session. The conversation among commissioners, select testifiers and city staff was spirited and sometimes testy. Little was resolved.

But drafts of the three measure referrals, already written by the City Attorney’s Office, have been submitted for review by the City Council next Wednesday. Any that garner at least three votes will appear on the November ballot.>>

<<Last week, Gonzalez and Ryan decided to bring three proposals to their colleagues that would alter charter reform if referred to the November 2023 ballot and approved by voters. Behind the scenes, they drafted three changes: adopt a different form of ranked-choice voting; shrink the size of the new City Council from 12 to eight members, electing them in alternating election cycles so the two positions in each district wouldn’t appear on the ballot at the same time; and give the future mayor veto powers.>>

<<Gonzalez is already looking at revising other programs and reforms recently passed by Portland voters. “We’ve had discussions about other ballot measures,” Gonzalez says. “What deserves some tweaking? What really doesn’t make sense?”

The two measures he’s eyeing in particular: the Portland Clean Energy Fund and the Police Accountability Commission.>>


[KW NOTE: The Merc gets my nomination for the Hunter Thompson Political Commentary Award, as soon as someone creates such a thing.]

<<• “Going back and forth in front of the voters makes us look like a clown car.” That quote from Mike Alfoni, co-founder of Ranked Choice Voting Oregon, to Commissioner Rene Gonzalez at yesterday’s meeting about charter reform at City Hall, hit the nail exactly on the head.

After being caught red-handed making backroom deals to hijack charter reform, Commissioners Rene Gonzalez and Dan Ryan threw together a hasty, and ultimately chaotic “work session” to pitch their ridiculous, thoughtless objections to the system which voters approved by a very wide margin. Our Taylor Griggs was there and filed this terrific report, but to make a long story short, the commissioners made it very clear that they know very little about the charter reform process even though they’ve been invited along with the rest of the public to learn about it and offer their ideas for the past year. Dan Ryan was duplicitous and condescending (as usual); Carmen Rubio mostly just sat there, refusing to offer any full-throated opposition to this attack on democracy; Mingus Mapps was an energy vampire vomiting empty platitudes and meaningless word salads, Rene Gonzalez (with help his typo-ridden, malfunctioning slide show) embarrassed himself with the laughable, insulting assertion that Portland can’t produce “12 quality candidates” to sit on council; and most shockingly of all, Mayor Ted Wheeler was the only sane voice on council who actually said out loud that this venture was a terrible waste of time, and that council should be working to get charter reform implemented—JUST AS VOTERS TOLD THEM TO IN THE FIRST PLACE. “Clown car,” indeed.>>



<<Oregon has spent more than $25 million housing 462 kids in foster care in hotels after the state promised to stop the practice as part of a legal settlement in 2018.

On Tuesday, a federal judge took the rare step of appointing an outside expert to oversee the state’s Department of Human Services, noting the state agency has not figured out how to wind down the practice known as “temporary lodging” on its own.

The state has not only failed to curb the practice, child welfare officials have increasingly relied on placing kids in hotels. In the first six months of this year, 75 kids were placed in hotels; ranging in age from 6 to 19 years old. Twenty of those kids have lived in a hotel for more than 60 days.

“This is incredibly harmful for these kids,” said Maggie Carlson, an attorney for Youth, Rights & Justice, which was one of the groups that filed a lawsuit in 2016 to stop the practice of hoteling. “They are spending months and months in hotels with a rotating cast of caregivers all the while getting the message they are unwanted and can’t do well with a regular family and they are different and unlovable. It really affects their mental health in the long term.”

When the state of Oregon removes a child from their home, child welfare officials are responsible for their care and ensuring they receive any mental health care they might need. Placing vulnerable youth in hotels for extended periods of time is widely recognized — even among Department of Human Services officials who are responsible for the kids placed in state care — as an inappropriate placement.

Attorneys and advocates with Youth, Rights & Justice and the Oregon Law Center asked a judge earlier this year to consider placing a court-appointed special master, someone who could ensure Department of Human Services officials worked to end the practice of hoteling.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane agreed this week and appointed Marty Beyer as special master to make specific recommendations to the court. Beyer will enter into a one-year contract with the state and spend the first three months gathering information before coming up with recommendations on how to find better placements for vulnerable children. The judge could then order the state to follow Beyer’s recommendations.

Oregon DHS officials offered a range of reasons why they struggle to find adequate places to house kids, such as a lack of capacity in both foster homes and residential treatment centers, the latter of which help treat kids with extensive behavioral health needs.>>

<<For seven years, the state has said there was a lack of suitable placements for kids and it was working diligently to increase capacity, McShane wrote, adding, “this argument has become nothing more than a stale mantra and the Court has lost faith in ODHS’ ability to end this entrenched policy on its own.”>>



<<Following community requests and discussions with bar and club owners in May, city officials are contemplating ways to begin enforcing a long-unused city statute designed to address nuisance complaints downtown, the Portland Police Bureau tells WW.

The regulation, known as a “time, place and manner” ordinance, empowers a city liquor license team to review complaints and potentially restrict the hours that bars and nightclubs can operate—or require other interventions, like hiring security or installing additional noise insulation.

But there’s a catch. “The process to restart doing them is in the works,” Police Bureau spokesman Kevin Allen told WW on June 24.

“However, I have no timeline for when we might have the resources to start them back up.”

The last recorded meeting of Portland’s liquor license team was in 2019.

In 2020, officials within the city’s liquor licensing program noted recent changes, including “no police reports [and] no capacity on staff to focus on enforcement or to take on more administrative work,” according to a meeting agenda obtained by WW.

So far, the mere threat of additional enforcement appears to be making a difference.

“Within two weeks of the bar summit, a large bar brawl happened at a club,” Allen says. “The owners shut the club down for a week to reset their practices, and they haven’t had any serious issues since.”>>



<<The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office says through a spokeswoman it was not given a “meaningful opportunity” to determine whether to support the commuted sentence of Jesse Lee Calhoun, who is now suspected in the subsequent deaths of four Portland-area women. The DA’s office did not take a position on releasing Calhoun in July 2021.

In March 2021, then-Gov. Kate Brown asked the Oregon Department of Corrections to create a list of inmates who had a record of good behavior and had helped fight the prior year’s wildfires, in order to shorten their prison stays. The DOC then sent a list of 14 inmates, including Calhoun, to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office “with a one-week deadline to return any specific community safety concerns related to the crime of conviction,” DA’s spokeswoman Liz Merah tells WW. (Forty-one inmate firefighters in all were released statewide.)

In typical clemency cases, the DA’s office is given 30 days to reach out to victims and decide whether to lend its support. The office is also typically provided with a packet of information that includes an application from the inmate, prison records, and any letters of support.

But no packet was provided in any of the 14 cases referred to the Multnomah County DA. “Given the limited information and the short timeline, we did not have a meaningful opportunity to respond,” Merah says.

Merah said she didn’t believe the Multnomah County DA had objected to commuting the sentences of any of the 14 inmate firefighters, although the office was conducting a review of its records. “If our collective memory is correct, we did not take a position on those,” she said.

In contrast, the Washington County District Attorney’s Office objected to 17 of the 19 proposed commutations submitted to it by the DOC, according to emails reviewed by WW.

The governor’s office says it wasn’t involved in the appraisal process, either. “The Department of Corrections did all of the vetting to determine whether individual firefighters met the requirements for early release,” office staff said in an email.

Amber Campbell, a spokeswoman for the DOC, confirmed to WW “no concerns were raised regarding any of the firefighter commutations” by the Multnomah County DA’s Office. She also noted that the office “did not request an extension” to more closely examine the inmates under consideration. MCDA did not immediately offer an explanation for why it did not.

Calhoun’s most recent convictions came in November 2019, when he pleaded guilty in separate cases to a raft of felonies, including burglary, unauthorized possession of a stolen vehicle, and injuring a police officer and a police dog when they attempted to arrest him. Those convictions earned Calhoun four concurrent sentences, the longest of which was 50 months, which included the nearly nine months he’d already served.

Calhoun’s original projected release date was June 30, 2022, the DOC says. But after the governor commuted his sentence, he was released 11 months early, in July 2021.

The commutation was conditional, meaning that the governor’s office could send him back to prison if Calhoun failed to abide by its terms.

“Jesse Lee Calhoun shall not violate any state or federal law,” reads his clemency letter obtained by WW.

In October 2022, Calhoun was caught driving with a suspended or revoked license, and later convicted of breaking that law after he failed to appear in court. (It’s a violation that carries a $445 fine.) It’s unclear if the governor’s office was aware of the traffic stop or the conviction. If it was, the notification likely didn’t come from the Multnomah County DA. “Driving violations are not referred to our office,” Merah says.

It’s not clear if the clemency played any role in the killings of which Calhoun is now suspected. The bodies of six young women were found in 2023, The Oregonian reported, months after Calhoun’s original projected released date.

The Portland Police Bureau initially denied that the killings were related. A few days later, Calhoun was arrested after fleeing into the Willamette River, and booked in jail for violating the terms of his prison supervision agreement. WW reported on Monday that he’s a suspect in at least four of the killings.>>



<<Stephen Kanter was driving on Southeast Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard Saturday night when a car went barreling past him, he said.

Kanter, former chief attorney for Portland’s Metropolitan Public Defender and emeritus dean of Lewis & Clark Law School, watched as the car crashed directly into the bus stop where a woman, identified Monday as Jeanie Diaz, was waiting. The car struck Diaz and flipped over into the road, landing just inches from Kanter’s car near the intersection of Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard and Taylor Street, he said.

Diaz, a youth librarian at the adjacent Belmont branch and the mother of two young children, died at the scene. The driver, later identified by police as Kevin Michael Scott, crawled out of the car mostly unharmed and stayed at the scene, Kanter said.

It took 20 minutes for emergency services to arrive, Kanter said. He said his call to 911 wasn’t being answered, so he hung up to get help another way. A fire vehicle was passing by and stopped at the scene, and the firefighters called for assistance, Kanter said. Medical help arrived shortly after, followed by police.

“If she had survived the hit, which I really doubt, she would’ve had no chance,” Kanter said. “The lack of response is inexcusable.”>>



<<In late May, a group of young, male neo-Nazis converged outside a bookstore in Bozeman, Montana, to protest a drag queen story hour. Later that day, they hit another similar event in Livingston, Montana. The second weekend in June, the groups targeted the Lewis County Pride Festival in Centralia, Washington. A week after that, it was the Wind River Pride event in Lander, Wyoming. And the following weekend, they were at Oregon City Pride, not far from Portland.

These men, dressed in tactical gear and masks, were members of so-called “active clubs” — a term that may be relatively new to American audiences. They are a strand of the white nationalist movement that has grown quickly during the last three years and that has recently taken their message of hate into more public view. These decentralized cells emphasize mixed martial arts training to ready their members for violence against their perceived enemies.

Stephen Piggott, a researcher with the Western States Center, a national civil rights organization, has closely tracked their evolution in the Pacific Northwest.

“They are really focused on a couple of things,” said Piggott. “One is centering, organizing and trying to recruit people through combat sports … but also, preparing for political and racially motivated violence.”

Those that protested those LGBTQ gatherings in the Pacific Northwest states call themselves the Northwest Nationalist Network; they have been among the most emboldened to bring their activities into the streets.>>

<<But not all far-right groups have welcomed the increased public activity of these crews. A viral video taken near the Oregon City Pride event last month showed Proud Boys, a violent neo-fascist group, beating members of an active club on a sidewalk. In the video, Proud Boys are heard calling the active club members “racists” and Nazis. The fight, which has been attributed to an interpersonal conflict between the groups, has opened up hostilities between the two extremist factions, mostly online.

Extremism experts caution that there is little comfort to take from seeing two far-right groups in conflict with each other. In this case, both had shown up in furtherance of the same cause: to intimidate members of the LGBTQ community at a Pride event. And the fact that both were there may signal a common perception that this moment in America, when anti-LGBTQ hostility is heightened, maybe be an opportunity to spread their extreme ideologies.>>