9/14/2023 News Roundup


<<The State of Oregon has taken legal action against the Board of Directors overseeing Fox News, alleging that the media company disseminated misinformation related to the 2020 election.

The Oregon Attorney General’s office has accused Fox Corporation of knowingly propagating false claims, characterizing it as a high-stakes pursuit of profits. In an official statement, the Attorney General asserted that the company exposed itself, and its shareholders, and even jeopardized the Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund.

At the beginning of this month, Oregon possessed over $5.2 million worth of Fox Corporation stocks.

The lawsuit follows Fox Corporation’s recent agreement to pay nearly $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems to settle claims stemming from false information promoted by the network regarding the 2020 election.

FOX 12 Oregon notes the news station is separate from the Fox Corporation, and is an independently operated local television station under the ownership of Gray Television. FOX 12 Oregon airs Fox Entertainment and sports programming.>>


<<The state of Oregon and New York City’s pension funds sued Fox Corporation on Tuesday, alleging the company harmed investors by allowing Fox News to broadcast falsehoods about the 2020 election that exposed the network to defamation lawsuits.

The lawsuit, filed in Delaware, accuses the company of inviting defamation claims by amplifying conspiracy theories about the election, including a lawsuit Fox News agreed to settle for nearly $800 million with the voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems.

In a statement, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said that Fox breached its fiduciary duties by disregarding legal risks.

“The directors’ choices exposed themselves and the company to liability and exposed their shareholders to significant risks,” she said. “That is the crux of our lawsuit, and we look forward to making our case in court.”

New York City’s pension funds are long-term shareholders of Fox Corporation, with shares valued at $28.1 million as of the end of July.

Oregon holds shares in the company worth approximately $5.2 million.

“Fox’s board of directors has blatantly disregarded the need for journalistic standards and failed to put safeguards in place despite having a business model that invites defamation litigation,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, who manages the city’s pension funds.>>

<<The complaint, which does not specify what damages it seeks, alleges Fox’s board decided to broadcast former President Donald Trump’s election falsehoods in order to satisfy his supporters, while knowing that doing so would expose the company to lawsuits.>>

<<“Defendants chose to invite robust defamation claims, with potentially huge financial liability and potentially larger business repercussions, rather than disappoint viewers of Fox News,” the lawsuit said.

In April, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million to avert a trial in the voting machine company’s lawsuit that would have exposed how the network promoted lies about the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion had argued that the news outlet damaged its reputation by airing phony conspiracy theories that its equipment switched votes from Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.>>



<<A city watchdog agency is investigating after a body-worn camera captured one Seattle Police Department union leader joking with another following the death of a woman who was struck and killed by a police cruiser as she was crossing a street.

Daniel Auderer, who is the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, responded to the Jan. 23 crash scene where another officer, Kevin Dave, struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, in a crosswalk. Dave was driving 74 mph on the way to an overdose call, and Auderer, a drug recognition expert, was assigned to evaluate whether Dave was impaired, The Seattle Times reported.

Afterward, Auderer left his body-worn camera on as he called guild President Mike Solan to report what happened. In a recording released by the police department Monday, Auderer laughs and suggests that Kandula’s life had “limited value” and the city should “just write a check.”

“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” Auderer said, inaccurately stating Kandula’s age. “She had limited value.”

The recording did not capture Solan’s remarks.>>

<<However, a conservative talk radio host on KTTH-AM, Jason Rantz, reported that he had obtained a written statement Auderer provided to the city’s Office of Police Accountability. In it, Auderer said that Solan had lamented the death and that his own comments were intended to mimic how the city’s attorneys might try to minimize liability for it.

“I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers,” Auderer wrote, according to KTTH. “I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy.”

The station reported that Auderer acknowledged in the statement that anyone listening to his side of the conversation alone “would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of human life.” The comment was “not made with malice or a hard heart,” he said, but “quite the opposite.”>>



<<A man killed after a standoff with Hillsboro Police Department officers on Thursday afternoon did not fire his gun as officers previously stated.

Around 11:40 a.m., Hillsboro police responded to 1445 Southeast Duke Drive to attempt to arrest Ryan Richard Herinckx, 39, for crimes including criminal mischief, stalking, violation of a courts stalking protective order and escape in the third degree.

Herinckx was in his driveway when police arrived. When they told him he was under arrest, he retreated into his house and refused to come out.

The Washington County Tactical Negotiations Team and the Crisis Negotiation Unit were sent for backup.

A little after 2 p.m., officers obtained a search warrant authorizing them to search the house and arrest Herinckx while CNU members continued to negotiate.

At approximately 3:15 p.m., Herinckx left the house while tactical officers were in the process of serving the warrant.

Police said he was armed with a handgun and fired at officers. After further investigation done by the Beaverton Police Department, body cam footage revealed that while Herinckx pointed a loaded handgun at deputies and officers, he did not discharge the gun.

The tactical officers fired, hitting Herinckx several times.

Police said they gave him first aid at the scene before Herinckx was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.

No police were reported injured during the incident, and the involved officers were placed on paid leave.

The involved officers were identified as:

    Hillsboro Officer Derrik Jarvis

    Washington County Deputy Bryan Payton

    Washington County Deputy Michael MacKenzie

    Hillsboro Police Sergeant John Ganci (fired less-lethal munitions)>>


<<Beaverton police said a 39-year-old man pointed but never fired a handgun at the officers and deputies who fatally shot him after an hours-long standoff outside his Hillsboro home on Thursday.

Body-worn camera footage showed Ryan Richard Herinckx did not shoot his weapon as investigators originally said he did, Beaverton police said in a statement Tuesday.

Hillsboro police officers Derrick Jarvis and John Ganci and Washington County Sheriff’s deputies Bryan Payton and Michael Mackenzie fired at Herinckx at 3:17 p.m., killing him. Ganci was using a less-lethal weapon, officials said.>>

<<Police had gone to Herinckx’s home shortly before noon Thursday to arrest him on charges of criminal mischief, stalking, violating a court’s stalking protective order and third-degree escape, investigators said.

Herinckx refused to come out of his house, and officers eventually obtained a court-issued warrant authorizing them to enter his home and arrest him, Beaverton police said.

As Washington County tactical negotiation officers tried to serve the warrant around 3:15 p.m., Herinckx left his house and pointed a handgun at officers.

Jarvis, Ganci, Payton and Mackenzie fired at Herinckx multiple times. He was pronounced dead at a hospital, Beaverton police said.

No one else was injured in the shooting.>>



<<Tensions have erupted, once again, between county, state and federal officials at odds over who is to blame for the state’s failure to offer sufficient treatment to criminal defendants suffering from mental illness.

First, Portland federal judge Michael Mosman yesterday invoked the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution to force the release of mentally ill inmates from the state’s locked psychiatric hospital, which has, until recently, had a growing waitlist due to a lack of beds.

Mosman acted in response to Marion County judges who had defied a previous order from Mosman limiting the length of hospital stays. At issue were seven patients from Marion County held in Oregon State Hospital in August beyond Mosman’s limits, thanks to a lack of community facilities able to take them. County judges had ordered them be kept at the state hospital.

Mosman pulled rank, saying those orders were void in a filing in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Previously, Mosman had denied Marion County’s efforts to become a party to those federal legal proceedings, which stem from a decades-old lawsuit by disability rights advocates accusing the state of warehousing mentally ill inmates in jails. (The county has appealed the decision.)

So, it currently has little recourse to challenge the ruling.

Instead, the county has filed a new lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court.

Late this afternoon, Marion County announced it was suing the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State Hospital for failing to meet their “statutory obligation to evaluate and treat individuals with pending criminal charges,” according to a press release.

“For too long, the State has failed to meet its legal obligation to fund, build, and staff sufficient beds for the growing number of Oregonians who need inpatient behavioral health restoration services. By Oregon law, only the State can provide or contract for this inpatient hospital level of restoration care. It has failed to do so,” read the release. “The State’s failure to provide sufficient inpatient capacity has had severe, devastating impacts on livability and public safety in our county.”>>



<<Portland Public Schools plans to test out a new weapon detection system during a McDaniel High School football game on Friday, officials said in a message to families.

As spectators arrive for the game between the McDaniel Mountain Lions and Lincoln Cardinals, PPS said that two portable Opengate pillars will be set up at the stadium entrance. Everyone in attendance will be screened by just walking through the pillars.

If the system detects a weapon, it will trigger alarms and optical signals to alert security staff, resulting in a secondary screening.

The test stems from a Safety and Security Task Force convened by PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. In May, the group presented a list of 13 recommendations, including one to “pilot a roving weapons detection system at key entry points of major high school events.”

According to school officials, attendance at the game won’t be very different from usual in spite of the new security technology.>>



<<The Washington attorney general is suing a Kelso gun store, claiming the store continued to sell high-capacity magazines even though they were banned in the state last year.

This is the second lawsuit that has been filed to enforce Washington’s ban on high-capacity magazines. That ban went into effect last July, and under the law, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute or sell magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

A violation of the law also constitutes a violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office claims that Gator’s Custom Guns, located in Kelso, is among the state’s largest purchasers of high-capacity magazines from out-of-state. The office says that the store has created a stockpile of high-capacity magazines.

The office says that Gator’s Custom Guns sold five high-capacity magazines to investigators on two separate occasions and that the sales happened about 10 months after the ban had gone into effect.

According to the office, investigators noted that there were barrels in the store that were full of high-capacity magazines.

Ferguson’s office says it believes the store has potentially sold thousands of high-capacity magazines since the ban went into effect last July.

The lawsuit, filed against Gator’s Custom Guns and its owner, Walter Wentz, seeks to stop the store from stocking and selling any more magazines that violate state law. It also seeks civil penalties for every time the store has violated the Consumer Protection Act, which maxes out at $7,500.

The lawsuit comes as part of a statewide sweep to find gun retailers who are violating the state’s law. The office says that most retailers have complied with the ban.>>



<<JAIL OFFICIALS EXPAND TRAINING ON USE OF BODY SCANNERS: Top officials at the Multnomah County Jail told county commissioners at a Sept. 12 briefing that they’re expanding staff training in the use of body scanners at the county’s jails. The X-ray scanners were installed in the fall of 2019, but the sheriff’s office just became aware of a certification program that allows staff to train co-workers how to use them. In the wake of an unprecedented six inmate deaths earlier this year, Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell said the scanners had proven ineffective at detecting fentanyl being smuggled into the jails, and some of the deaths may have been drug related (“Cell Death,” WW, Aug. 16). The problem, however, may not have been the machines but a lack of training. The jail brought in the company that services the scanners to provide staff training a few weeks ago at the county’s Inverness Jail in East Portland. Chief Deputy Stephen Reardon told county officials it’s already proving effective. Deputies are finding more contraband. “We are seeing a difference,” he said.>>



<< In response to persistent ambulance response issues, Multnomah County has made two big changes to its 911 system — affecting how an emergency call is managed and who responds to the scene.>>

<<AMR blames a shortage of paramedics and strict rules from Multnomah County that make it harder to staff ambulances. County leaders have threatened to fine AMR for poor performance, although no fines have been issued to this point.>>

<<First, Multnomah County, AMR, and the city of Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications changed their system for sorting and managing 911 calls. The idea is that smarter management of different types of 911 calls could help keep paramedics available for emergent, life-threatening cases. Someone with a toothache or a rash or other types of “low-acuity” calls can wait.>>

<<Dispatchers are now sending calls that appear to be “low-acuity” or not as pressing to an AMR paramedic, who then checks in over the phone until an ambulance crew is available.

Monnig said the change has created a more effective emergency dispatch system. Prior to now, 911 calls were dispatched out as they came in, creating situations where ambulances were delayed in getting to high-risk and time-sensitive calls because all ambulances were already assigned.

At BOEC, bureau director Bob Cozzie said the new triage system could help reduce 911 wait times as well.>>

<<In the first month of using the low-acuity dispatch queue, AMR paramedics managed about 1,050 emergency calls from a room at AMR’s Portland headquarters.

Close to 1,000 of these calls were correctly designated as low-risk and managed over the phone until ambulance crews were available, according to Multnomah County data. About 6% of the time, paramedics escalated the calls back to central dispatch for a more emergent response.>>

<<The other big change to Multnomah County’s emergency response system involves who is responding to 911 calls.

AMR Multnomah County has now started sending teams of two EMTs, first responders who are not as highly trained or qualified as paramedics, to provide care in lower-level cases. These are called “Basic Life Support” or BLS crews.

The goal is to get more ambulances on the street and reduce the overwhelming workload on “Advanced Life Support” — or ALS paramedic crews — that respond to the most serious cases.

Right now, there are eight EMTs staffing four BLS ambulances. AMR is hiring more EMTs, which the county is asking for.>>

<<Ideally, the increase in BLS crews will take pressure off ALS crews, hopefully eliminating the concerning number of “Level Zero” situations — when all ambulances are tied up and dispatchers have zero ambulances they can send to an emergency.>>

<<AMR says it needs mixed crews, one paramedic and one EMT, to improve response times and ambulance performance. For decades, Multnomah County health officials have insisted that ambulances need to have two paramedics to provide the best medical care.>>

<<However, the county still says it has no interest in allowing a one-and-one model anytime soon.

Both changes — the 911 triage system and the use of EMT crews — are active now. County leaders said they can’t promise a permanent fix, but early data is encouraging.>>



<<Vern and his friend pulled shopping carts filled with cans and blankets across the train tracks under Portland’s Morrison Bridge on Wednesday morning. They had just learned their camp was being cleared by Rapid Response.

“They just showed up and said we got to move,” said Vern.

For him, homelessness means learning how to hide. His latest spot under the bridge lasted him about two weeks before his camp was posted for removal.

“You got to find somewhere that’s kind of secluded, but there’s not many places,” he said.

He knows life on the streets will only get harder as he’s bracing for the daytime ban on camping that the city is expected to start enforcing sometime this fall.

“During the day you’d have to take everything you have, and that’s pretty much impossible,” he said.

Vern said that there needs to be a safe place for him to go and store his things. It’s exactly the type of place Multnomah County commissioners are trying to fund using the millions of dollars in unspent funding earmarked for homeless services.

Because of a series of financial windfalls, problems like Vern’s can’t be entirely blamed on lack of funding. For months, Multnomah County has been sitting on millions of dollars for homelessness. They figured out how to spend some of that last week, but now they have an additional $62 million they have yet to spend.

“We have so much money …. I mean, it really is shocking,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran.

Last week, county commissioners voted to spend about $17 million on expanding shelter capacity and cleaning up Portland streets, along with rent assistance and support for homeless service providers.

This week, they learned of even more money coming their way. This time it’s from the federal government.

“We should have been forewarned that this was probably going to occur. It just creates confusion and disarray,” said Meieran.

In total, Multnomah County has been sitting on more than $100 million in unspent funding meant for homeless services.

Here’s how it breaks down:

    $50 million is from over-collected Supportive Housing Services (SHS) taxes — money received from taxpayers beyond what the county expected.

    $12 million is from federal American Rescue Plan money, which commissioners just learned they had this week.

    $40 million came from funding in the budget that the county simply has left unspent, which KGW was told last week would go into next year’s budget. We’re now learning it might be spent on homeless services as soon as November.

The focus this week is on how to spend about $62 million of this total. Commissioner Meieran is proposing they spend it on three things: shelter beds, a downtown Portland sobering center and places for people to go after leaving detox or treatment.

“We should be investing in those big picture things we know we need, and that’s what I’ll be advocating for,” she said.

Commissioner Julia-Brim Edwards has a similar proposal.

“If we make a big investment in shelters now, I believe we will decrease the need for and the amount of unsanctioned camping that’s having a huge impact on our neighborhoods,” Brim-Edwards said.

It also impacts people like Vern, who is lost in what he calls a broken system with nowhere to hide.

“You’re kind of stuck, in a way,” Vern said.>>



<<In June, Oregon lawmakers passed House Bill 2645, criminalizing possession of small amounts of fentanyl.

The new law, which went into effect July 28 after Gov. Tina Kotek signed it, has been touted by policymakers as a powerful new tool for law enforcement to address the rampant public use of illicit drugs. The law “addresses our primary concerns about the public health crisis unfolding on our streets,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in late June.

But, according to charging records released to WW by prosecutors, Portland cops have used it sparingly so far.

The law introduced a misdemeanor for possession of at least 1 gram or five “user units” containing detectable amounts of fentanyl, which has been included in charges referred to the Multnomah County district attorney by police agencies only four times, says DA spokeswoman Liz Merah.

Last week, prosecutors filed charges in Multnomah County Circuit Court for all of them. The defendants include a suspected drug dealer, a woman trying to enter a homeless day center with a bag of stolen mail, and a county jail inmate. In half the cases, the charge was paired with other, more serious crimes.

The number of cases may rise as police become more familiar with how to use it, and a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau says some cases may still be working their way through the system. “We are seeing positive momentum—though it will take time to train officers on the nuances of the new law,” the mayor’s office tells WW.>>


<<A recent study from the University of Washington (UW) revealed new insights about the prevalence of fentanyl and methamphetamine on public transit in Portland.

The UW study showed the presence of airborne remnants of both drugs on buses and light rail cars in Seattle and Portland, though transit agencies say the amounts are minuscule—one public transit leader compared the amount of substance found to “one-thousandth of a grain of sugar”—and don’t pose a threat to public health. It’s also unclear from the study whether or not the residue found in public transit vehicles was directly caused by people using drugs onboard. Still, public transportation leaders think the findings warrant taking action on public drug use on TriMet buses and light rail trains.

On Sept. 7, TriMet posted to social media about an upcoming “crackdown on public drug use,” calling on “state and local officials and lawmakers to enact policy changes and enforcement to help curb this epidemic.”

“We know public drug use on transit is a serious safety concern for our riders and employees, and that it makes TriMet a less appealing travel option,” the post said. The statement was met with mixed reception, with some people commending the agency for taking a strong stance while others expressed fears about TriMet increasing policing on public transit.

In a blog post, TriMet outlined a plan to deal with illegal drug use on public transit vehicles, listing measures like increased security personnel and partnerships with local law enforcement to combat drug use. The announcement came in the immediate aftermath of a unanimous Portland City Council effort to criminalize hard drug use, which will require changes in Oregon law to enforce.

During a time when public transit ridership has failed to return to pre-pandemic levels, many transportation advocates are looking for a solution to get people back on the bus—and TriMet leaders think a security crackdown could be one solution.

While many transportation experts acknowledge the crisis of addiction in Portland, they advise caution and nuance when interpreting the findings of the UW study. Some advocates also warn against relying on policing as an addiction response tactic, which they say fails to address the root cause of the problem.

Between March 27 and June 22, UW researchers collected air and surface samples for fentanyl and methamphetamine from 11 buses and 19 train cars in Portland and Seattle’s public transit systems. Nearly all of the 78 air samples and 102 surface samples collected contained detectable methamphetamine—100 percent and 98 percent, respectively. The report indicates 25 percent of air samples and 46 percent of surface samples collected contained detectable fentanyl. But, the report points out, “detection of fentanyl or methamphetamine by the lab does not mean it poses a health risk to operators or the riding public.”

The research was conducted after bus and light rail operators in Seattle filed safety incident reports about drug use on public transit vehicles.

According to the Seattle Times, some bus drivers “stopped driving because of headaches, dizziness or difficulty breathing.”

It’s unclear whether or not passive exposure to surface or air residue from fentanyl and methamphetamine can result in dangerous health outcomes. The UW report states the levels of drugs found in the study are unlikely to impact the riding public, but it’s less clear if or how much passive exposure to fentanyl and methamphetamine can impact transit operators, who spend much more time in the vehicles.

This isn’t the first time TriMet has attempted to address drug use on its transit vehicles. Last year, the agency sent out a memo to its workforce about the impacts of fentanyl use on public trains and buses, proposing more transit security officers and other measures to combat the alleged drug use.

While much of the discussion around the UW study has implied drug residue is the result of people smoking fentanyl or methamphetamine on public transit, this isn’t clear from the research. UW researchers did not directly assess exposure determinants, such as “whether or not smoking events definitely occurred” when tests were running. Among other limitations, the researchers also point out the assessment was limited in scope and “cannot be taken to be representative of all vehicles, routes, or runs, both in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country.”

After the study was published, the Oregon and Washington Poison Centers released a joint statement to “put [the] data in perspective.” Oregon’s Poison Center is housed at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).

“As physicians who are medical toxicologists and Medical Directors of the Poison Centers of Washington and Oregon, we find that the results of the study are no surprise,” the statement reads. “Smoking in a public place produces very small amounts of that substance and we can identify those substances in the air and on surfaces with modern laboratory methods.”

The statement added that people who use public transit “should continue to feel safe doing so.”

Dr. Rob Hendrickson, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center, said in a press briefing that “in most cases, an exposure [on public transit] would be hundreds to thousands of times lower than what we would expect to cause clinical effects.”

The toxicology experts noted the study was meant to determine whether drugs could be detected on public transit. The results are “reflective of the volume of drug use currently in our communities and a reminder for the community to develop solutions to decrease drug use over the long term.”

But potential health impacts aren’t the only problem: the UW study and public transportation leaders also point out the impact that perceived danger can pose for passengers and transit operators. In this case, perceived threat may be the biggest factor informing people’s decisions about whether or not to ride public transit.

Like in many other cities across the country, ridership on TriMet buses and MAX trains has been down since the beginning of the pandemic. While factors like an increased remote workforce and ongoing Covid concerns have likely played a substantial role, some TriMet leaders point to public safety concerns related to drug use as a reason for lower ridership.

Andrew Wilson, TriMet’s executive director of safety and security, spoke in favor of banning public drug use in Portland at a Portland City Council meeting on September 6.

“The convergence of behavioral health issues, drug use and addiction, and homelessness in the communities we serve [is] negatively impacting our riders and our employees. The open drug use is extending onto our transit system despite our expanding security efforts,” Wilson said. “It is important that public transit is safe, particularly for those who rely on it. Perception often is reality, and open drug use on and around transit creates a perception that transit is unsafe, which hurts transit ridership and the vitality of downtown.”

The UW study also recognizes perceived danger as a risk for operators and the riding public.

“Observing drug use in a bus or train can be stress-inducing… and may increase feelings of stress, anxiety, or job dissatisfaction,” the study states. “For individuals who may be in recovery or have had family or loved ones impacted by drug use, these feelings may be particularly heightened.” >>

<<Organizers with Bus Riders Unite (BRU), a public transit rider union housed by OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, attribute low ridership to other causes. In an email to the Mercury, a BRU organizer said after speaking to “dozens of transit-dependent riders” about their primary concerns with TriMet last weekend, the top issues they heard about from riders involve the recent systemwide fare increase, reduced bus service, and lagging transit schedules.

“Not a single rider spoke to illicit drug use on public transit,” the BRU organizer wrote.>>

<<Among TriMet’s proposed solutions to the prevalence of drugs on public transit is increased police and non-police enforcement. In a September 7 blog post, TriMet stated they have doubled the number of personnel on their security teams since the start of 2022, and security officers will “inform anyone seen smoking on board that it is not allowed,” escalating to contacting supervisors and/or the police if the person is noncompliant. The blog post also states that TriMet has 46 customer safety supervisors—unarmed patrollers—on staff compared to 18 last year.

The agency is also relying on its Safety Response Team: a group of 58 personnel who “connect people in need on and around our transit system with social services such as shelters, mental health resources, and addiction services.”

Drug use isn’t the only code violation TriMet hopes to combat with increased security. Safety supervisors will also enforce fares and attempt to “reduce inappropriate behaviors and activities.” Last month, TriMet began limiting access to the Hollywood Transit Center MAX platform to paying customers by requiring fare payment to use the elevator. The agency says the effort helped “discourage misuse” of the station, and they plan to expand the process system wide.

Transportation justice advocates are supportive of programs like the Safety Response Team. But TriMet’s embrace of Portland City Council’s more punitive approach to drug use may signal the agency is heading in a different direction—though the agency maintains they want to “reduce interaction with law enforcement that leads to criminal charges, unless absolutely necessary.”

Marisa Zapata, an urban studies and planning professor at Portland State University (PSU), said not all efforts to increase safety are created equal.

“When you increase policing, there is a whole set of people who feel less safe, and then other people who feel more safe,” Zapata said in an interview with the Mercury. “You have to ask first and foremost: whose safety needs are you trying to meet?”

Zapata leads the PSU Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative, and she has researched the intersections of homelessness and public transportation. While homelessness and drug use are two distinct issues, addiction and homelessness can be cyclical, and drug use by those living on the street is far more visible in public spaces.

“The first thing we need to do is to be able to offer stable housing,” Zapata said.

Another solution endorsed by both the UW study and TriMet: enhanced filtration and cleaning protocols. Zapata pointed out this would also be helpful for increasing perceptions of safety regarding the presence of unhoused passengers generally.

“One of the consistent findings that we had around homelessness was if people are concerned about trash being left behind or something like that, just clean things more,” Zapata said.

Enhanced cleaning and filtration mechanisms would also help to combat the airborne threat that still lingers and, in fact, is worsening as another surge begins: COVID. TriMet, along with other public transit systems around the country, dropped its mask mandate back in April 2022.

“What else is on the trains that could actually be a public safety and health threat? How much COVID is in the air?” Zapata asked. “Is this even the biggest issue in terms of what you could contract on a train? I’m still more focused on COVID.”>>


<<A group of Oregon elected officials have planned a field trip to Portugal in order to learn more about the European nation’s drug decriminalization program, one which inspired Oregon’s own Measure 110.

Passed by Oregon voters with 58% in favor back in 2020, Measure 110 decriminalized user amounts of every street drug. It also appropriated the lion’s share of Oregon’s cannabis tax dollars toward programs meant to facilitate drug treatment.

But recent polling suggests that Measure 110 no longer has the support of most Oregon voters — in fact, a majority of respondents said they’d prefer to see it repealed instead of staying as-is. The ubiquity of cheap, powerful and addictive opioids in the form of fentanyl has contributed to a highly visible addiction crisis and record overdose deaths, and it’s taking time to establish sufficient avenues for treatment.

Faced with mounting pressure, the group that championed Measure 110 in 2020 has organized this outing to Portugal for local politicians, ostensibly in order to get a better idea of how the law could or should work, given enough time and resources.

The Health Justice Recovery Alliance is a coalition of state and national groups putting the trip together. A spokeswoman for the group told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the trip will be funded by private foundations whose missions and work focus on criminal justice reform.

It’s set to happen between October 30 and November 3.

The delegation so far includes Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson (who said she’ll pay for the trip herself), Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, state Rep. Rob Nosse, state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, state Sen. Kate Lieber, and state Rep. Lily Morgan — the only Republican lawmaker in the group and a vocal opponent of Measure 110.

The Oregonian reports that about 10 others will tag along, including the president of Portland’s police union, Aaron Schmautz.>>

<<Portugal began allowing citizens to possess a supply of street drugs for about 10 days of personal use back in the year 2000, becoming the first country in the world to do so. They began treating addiction as a public health matter rather than a criminal one. Goulão described the program as a resounding success, and a lot of the early data backed that up.>>



<<Authorities have taken a suspect into custody after they reportedly stole a Portland Fire & Rescue fire boat, then left it in the Kalama area early Thursday morning.

PF&R confirms that Rescue Boat 21 was stolen from the fire station at Southeast Madison Street, near the Hawthorne Bridge. Law enforcement and the Coast Guard pursued the fire boat along the Willamette River to the Columbia River.

The suspect beached the boat in the Kalama area and ran off on foot.

Authorities pursued the suspect and took them into custody at around 7:30 a.m.

The name of the suspect has not yet been released.>>