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GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND! And a very happy Valentine's Day to you all. It's set to be cold and rainy today, but I hope all the love you experience will keep you warm. If not, there's always wine and the knowledge you can buy yourself a big box of Russell Stover chocolates ON SALE tomorrow. And our Valentine's issue is online and in print at locations near you!!!

ALSO! Whether you're single, taken, or somewhere in the vast in-between, please take the Mercury's SEX SURVEY. Today is a perfect day to do it, but it's open until February 23, so if you're too busy doing...other, don't sweat it. Try to remember some of the details, though, so you can include them in your survey responses. 😉 

Enough talk. Let's get to the news. 


• Portland's fire bureau won't face major citywide spending cuts in the next fiscal year, but fire and rescue leaders are still looking at an $11 million budget shortfall, mainly attributed to funds allocated for fire bureau retirees, overtime expense, and other personnel costs. This may result in a $3 million cut to Portland Street Response (PSR), the widely praised, non-police crisis response program that only has about a $10 million budget to begin with. Contrast that with the fire bureau's annual allocation of roughly $175 million, and you start to wonder...isn't there anywhere else they could find an extra $3 million? I'm not saying that Portland Fire & Rescue, which is headed by Commissioner Rene Gonzalez, doesn't do important work. I want our firefighters to have their big red trucks, hoses, poles, Dalmatians, etc. But Portland Street Response is important, too! Supporters of the alternative response program have long called on Gonzalez to more fully back PSR, and this latest development only makes that request more dire. Read the full story from our Courtney Vaughn HERE

If news of frequent bar and restaurant closures is getting you down in the dumps, listen up! We have it on good authority that the 1905, a jazz club in North Portland that closed a few months ago, is planning to reopen soon under new management. A press release sent earlier this week announced the celebrated venue may be open again in as soon as four to six weeks. Check out Robert Ham's story for more details

• After crying wolf about MAX train attacks (plus a bunch of other past transgressions), Commissioner Rene Gonzalez has officially been banned from Portland restaurant Jojo. Mayor Ted Wheeler precedes him on the list of banned city officials. 

• Winter weather enjoyers, rejoice: The Oregon Cascades are set to get a fresh blanket of powder today and tomorrow. It's possible, but unlikely, that the snow could impact altitudes in the Willamette Valley, too. Whatever happens, let it not be an ice storm. And let me not have just jinxed us into another ice storm by saying that. 

• U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg returned to the Portland area on Monday, this time stopping in Vancouver to chat about the I-5 bridge replacement— the Oregon/Washington megaproject in desperate need of federal assistance to cover its massive, rising price tag. In an interview with reporters, Buttigieg said the bridge is "going to happen," but didn't make any promises about more funding from the U.S. DOT, saying the grant programs are "highly competitive." Interstate Bridge Replacement Program leaders were surely hoping for a little bit more from Pete, but he certainly didn't offer any sharp criticism of the project...even if some aspects of it may warrant that response. 

• Could we see an extension of the Westside Express Service (WES) commuter rail from Wilsonville to Salem!?? A bill in the Oregon legislature may make it so. This would be one of the biggest wins ever for NUMTOTs (IYKYK) up and down the I-5 corridor, so let's make it happen. 


• After failing to do so last week, the clowns barely disguised as Republican politicians in the U.S. House successfully impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas yesterday, alleging he has failed to secure the southern U.S. border with Mexico. The GOP reps who impeached him argued Mayorkas has "willfully and systematically" refused to enforce immigration laws, and that he has lied to the public and Congress by saying the border was secure. Remember, these are many of the same people who said Donald Trump didn't do impeachment-worthy "high crimes and misdemeanors" when he encouraged his band of followers to storm the capitol three years ago.

But the foolishness and hypocrisy is honestly too obvious to point out or discuss for very long. Anyway, now the Senate will have to take this case on, and it doesn't look like they're champing at the bit to do so. It is an alarming sign of the ever-growing extremism in this country, though, even as I thought that couldn't possibly go any further. 

• Speaking of the House GOP, however...their slim majority just got a little slimmer. Democrat Tom Suozzi won yesterday's special election for a New York U.S. House spot, taking over the vacant seat left by Grifter in Chief George Santos when he was ousted at the end of last year. Suozzi does not really seem like a progressive icon, but it's sort of a numbers game at this point, and his win is sure to upset Republicans. 

•.After Israel's military bombardment of Rafah, a city in the southern part of the Gaza Strip where Palestinians had been told to relocate for their safety, the South African government has made an "urgent request" with the United Nation's International Court of Justice. South Africa is asking the court to consider if the attacks on Rafah, a geographically small city currently hosting 1.4 million Palestinians seeking shelter, violate the U.N.'s Genocide Convention and the court's preliminary orders in a case accusing Israel of genocide. Meanwhile, while some sources report progress in truce talks between Israel and Hamas, more than a million people in Rafah are fearing for their lives with little option of escape. And although President Joe Biden has privately criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he— and many members of the Democratic Party— are moving forward with a massive aid package for Israel

• It's been a big few weeks for Sesame Street news. After Elmo caused a national existential crisis when he asked his Twitter followers how they were doing a couple weeks ago, his pal Grover is now the subject of attention. Grover, who you might know as the blue muppet, took to social media on Monday announcing he was a reporter and could say with fact-checked certainty that all his online followers are special and amazing. The journalist community, understandably prone to career pessimism, reacted to this news by warning him that in this media economy, he better not rest on his laurels. NPR turned Grover's post into a truly hard-hitting piece of reporting about the state of the news industry, and if nothing else, you need to read the headline: "Grover the Muppet says he's a reporter. Not for long, joke his beleaguered peers." Damn. 

• Finally...HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! I love all of you. Here's some otters on a date to celebrate. 💋 XOXO XOXO XOXO 💋 

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