As the State Turns

By Johnny Beaver

stateturnssymbolInconsequential Nature Update

Watch out for El Nino, folks. Actually, Oregon meteorologists say it’ll be pretty mild this year, in addition to a fairly dry winter. This means a below average snowpack in the mountains, though hopefully not a short winter altogether—this last summer was awful and I feel like I’m done being cooked alive for quite some time. That and I sort of wanted to go sledding and injure myself (that’s how you know you’re doing it right).

Speaking of speeding along frosty wonderland paths, you might want to take it easier than usual in your car. Wildlife crashes have been increasing in recent years. 2004 saw a total of 626 reported incidents, but by 2013 that number was 1,274 and it’s expected not to slow anytime soon. If you do hit an animal, ODOT reminds you that you’re not allowed to eat it—and that you shouldn’t get out of your car and curb stomp the life out of it, even if it’s suffering. There are some safety reasons behind all of this, but that’s…. yawns… ugh, what was I saying? Ah, that’s right. As for my own tips, avoid elk at all costs because you’ll likely go flying off the road as well; those things are huge. And if you see a yeti, speed up. If you’re going to hit it, make sure it can’t get up and rip your arms off.

Tales of a Poopier Willamette

Three years ago, Portland’s $1.4 million Big Pipe project was completed alongside promises that the Willamette River would be protected from CSOs, or combined sewer overflows, at least to the tune of a 94% reduction. How has it fared thus far? There have been three overflows so far this year. However, this has only brought the tally to 10 overflows since the project was completed—a lot less than the average 50 overflows PDX saw per year in the past. Fifty… overflows. Of sewage. Into the river… a year. What the hell are those people eating up there?

A Nut in Forest Park

A pipe loaded with a shotgun shell and modified to fire was found attached to a tripwire in a popular Portland park, right along a heavily traveled trail. After it was spotted, the bomb squad was called out and dismantled the device, which they say had a flaw that prevented it from working. There are no leads so far, but a successfully delivered tip to Crime Stoppers at 503-823-4357 should be met with a reward that could purchase at least 800 burritos, give or take. In the meantime, I hope the coward that made the device takes a swim in the Willamette and gets pink eye in both sockets.

New TriMet Contract: Hoorah

After 37 bargaining sessions, eight mediation meetings, and a year’s time, an agreement between the union that represents Portland’s bus/light rail workers and TriMet has been found. The new contract is claimed to save the agency $50 million over the next several years, while workers receive a 3% wage increase both this year and next.

The biggest part of the fight was undoubtedly over retirement benefits. TriMet has said past agreements would have required it to pay nearly $900 million in benefits, which they don’t have the money to continue doing. The union raised an eyebrow and said something to the effect of “Ahem, what they meant to say was $450 million…” Either way, under the new contract the union states that new workers will no longer receive the retiree health benefit.

So in other words, so far so good… but we’ll be back to the table again in 10 years. Universal health care people, dig it.

Election Updates

Let’s see… Republican governor candidate Dennis Richardson requested that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Portland start an investigation into incumbent John Kitzhaber’s “looking the other way” while his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, used her role as first lady to snag some sweet consulting gigs. Richardson mumbled something about transparency, and the Kitzhaber campaign, blinded by the glare off of Richardson’s dome, mumbled something about a political stunt right back.

Oregon sheriffs are collectively pissed that the King County, Washington sheriff came out with an ad in support of Measure 91—the bill we all know and love as the “pot” bill. The word “deplorable” and the phrase “how dare” were used a lot. I think there was a “spoon-fed” and a totally unsubstantiated “blatantly false” in there as well. Either way, a lot of us think it’s kind of funny, and wonder what the hell the Oregon sheriffs are talking about. It’s well within the norm for political figures from outside an area to endorse certain positions, not to mention the fact that the ad was paid for by the Yes on 91 campaign.