Several years ago, while sorting through garbage at a local recycling plant, a "Waste of Oregon" employee made a macabre discovery: the body of Richard Phelps. A homeless man, Phelps was crushed to death after seeking shelter in a dumpster in downtown Portland. When the trash was collected, the dumpster was lifted hydraulically over the garbage truck's cab, completely out of the driver's view. Phelps died when the driver compacted the trash into a dense cube.
Now, five years later, Barbara Basset, Phelps' sister, is suing the trash company for $10 million. The trial is set for Monday. Basset claims that garbage companies know that homeless people often search dumpsters for food and shelter; a successful suit could force companies to take more precautions. Since 1988, five deaths by trash compactor were reported in the tri-county area. JAYMEE CUTI
TOO LEGIT TO QUIT
Last Wednesday, Police Chief Mark Kroeker invited some--but not all--representatives from local media to a breakfast discussion aimed at improving relations. Assuming that our invitation was lost in the mail, the Mercury put on its bravest smile and crashed the party.
The forum, said Kroeker, would help determine how the police and media outlets "might work together better." Kroeker said he recognized that the police had come under fire when several reporters received "a taste of that nasty chemical agent" during August 22's tumult between police and anti-Bush demonstrators. He asked the group to suggest how inadvertent pepper-spraying could be avoided.
While "feeling free to hose down the demonstrators," KPTV's rep asked if Kroeker could instruct officers to direct pepper spray away from reporters. Police representatives said that making this distinction can be difficult. "When rocks and bottles are coming at me," said one officer, "I'm going to mace everybody."
The group discussed the possibility of distributing ID badges to members of the "legitimate media" in order to distinguish them from protesters carrying cameras. Commander Rosie Sizer questioned the term "legitimate," arguing that Indymedia and other non-mainstream news groups would consider themselves legitimate.
"The so-called alternative press," Kroeker said off-handedly, precluding further discussion on the matter. ANNA BOND