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GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND! Happy Wednesday. It's set to be another temperate day today, with rain and temperatures in the early 50s. Practically a tropical paradise, right? Here's what the news is looking like on this fine, balmy day.


• In a stated effort to help move the Portland city government transition along, Commissioner Rene Gonzalez appointed Mike Myers as the city's first interim deputy city administrator for the Public Safety Service Area. But Gonzalez, who hasn't been the biggest advocate for charter reform during his time in office, doesn't really have the jurisdiction to do that, at least not before July 1, when the city's new government org chart kicks in. Hey, the guy does what he wants! But I wouldn't be surprised if Mayor Ted Wheeler gets a little miffed about the government overreach, and expresses it (perhaps via a lengthy monologue) in the next City Council meeting. 

• Portland City Council will vote today about referring the gas tax, AKA the "Fixing Our Streets" measure, to the May ballot. It's been in place since 2016 and has raked in about $150 million for Portland's transportation system since then. Considering the Portland Bureau of Transportation is kind of tight for cash right now, it's pretty imperative that it gets on the ballot and Portlanders vote yes.

This is the kind of situation where if City Council votes "yes," it's a non-story (they're just voting to keep the status quo). But if they vote "no" could be seismic. At least for PBOT staff and the subset of Portlanders who are like, weirdly obsessed with biking and stuff. Not that we know anyone like that...

Democrats in the Oregon legislature have proposed a sweeping proposal to recriminalize possession of drugs, making it a low-level misdemeanor to be caught with a small amount of drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and meth. Thanks to Measure 110, approved by Oregon voters in 2020, this is currently "legal" (meaning you can't get prosecuted for it, not that you can buy hard drugs at state-approved dispensaries). The measure also includes other policy changes that would make it easier for drug users to get help— something that was supposed to be part of Measure 110, but that many people feel has been lacking. 

But the measure is getting pushback from all sides. Republicans don't think it's far enough (they want drug users to face even more severe criminal penalties) and addiction recovery advocates think it's a waste of resources that won't make a difference to people who have been upset about Measure 110. 

People who are upset about Measure 110, blaming decriminalization for public drug use and homelessness, say they want to help drug users AND get them off the streets— immediately. And those two things can't exist at the same time. Personally, I hope we focus more on the first one. Even if it takes a little longer (and it will). 

The Pacific Northwest may be a new hotspot for solar energy production under a new U.S. Bureau of Land Management plan to create solar facilities on up to 5 million acres of land in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The land has been identified as low-risk for conflict with wildlife and critical habitat, and no solar farms will be developed in places like recreation sites and old growth forests. Still, I expect the plan will gather plenty of anger from misguided NIMBYs. Just remember, we could eventually move solar panels if we find other sources of renewable energy. But if we don't act VERY QUICKLY to increase renewable production, that same land is going to be destroyed in far more permanent ways. This is to say: I'm a solar energy fan. Obviously.


• According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the beginning of the war in October, and 85 percent of Gaza's 2.3 million population have been displaced. Many more are facing starvation and other horrific conditions. As the crisis worsens, more global leaders are warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the siege on Palestinians in Gaza. Yesterday, United Nations chief Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it very plainly: Netanyahu's rejection of a Palestinian state, which would leave "a large number of Palestinians inside without any real sense of freedom, rights and dignity," would be "inconceivable." He also called on Netanyahu and other world leaders to consider the real, and terrible, risks of this war escalating regionally and beyond. 

• OMG, GUYS, guess who won the Republican primary in New Hampshire!? Sorry, just my pathetic attempt at a joke. It was Donald Trump, okay? He's really doing it, sweeping the nation once again. Not that anyone's surprised. But maybe we should be. Why, oh why, is this happening? (Rhetorical question, hold the email responses.) 

The Los Angeles Times laid off 115 employees today— about 20 percent of its newsroom— in the largest layoff in the newspaper's history. It's a very sad day for the impacted people, their families, and the community at large. It's also another ominous sign for people in the journalism industry, who watch nervously as these kinds of huge layoffs appear to happen every week. Not good! 

• 2023 was a big year for labor news, as people all across the United States paid attention to the Hollywood writer and actor strikes, auto worker strikes, and even the Portland teachers' union strike. But actual union membership numbers aren't matching up to the hype. Only 10 percent of workers were members of unions last year— an all-time low.

Still, there's reason for unionized labor advocates to have hope. Polls show Americans are more approving of labor unions than they were 15 years ago, with 67 percent of the public taking a positive view on them. Hopefully this will translate to more union membership this year. Gotta get the numbers up, folks! C'mon!

• Finally...these goats have saved my life a little bit today. At least, they're quite spirit-lifting. TTYL, TTFN, etc. 

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