MULTNOMAH COUNTY'S largest employee union stepped out on an awfully shaky limb earlier this year when it endorsed Jim Francesconi for the county's top seat. Francesconi ended up getting trounced by new County Chair Deborah Kafoury. And now it's time for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 88 to renegotiate its contract.

So is the chagrined union shying away from big asks? Not exactly. It's joined workers throughout the country in calling for a $15 minimum wage.

"We have members working full time who earn less than $25,000 per year, well below the Portland poverty level for a family of four," reads a flyer given out to county employees recently.

Deirdre Mahoney-Clark, president of the 2,600-member Local 88, didn't want to discuss the proposal much, citing ongoing talks. But she mentioned employees like library pages, who make $11.99 an hour, as those who'd benefit from the bump.

Both the county's lead negotiator and a spokesman said they wouldn't discuss the matter during negotiations.

Under the proposal, the $15 wage would be phased in over three years. The next bargaining session is scheduled for Wednesday, October 15. DIRK VANDERHART

PRETTY MUCH everyone's telling Mayor Charlie Hales to end the weekend street closures in Old Town/Chinatown's "Entertainment District" ["Cork in the Road," News, Sept 17]. The mayor's response? Asking his colleagues to extend them.

On Wednesday, October 15, city council is slated to take up an ordinance that will keep the closures enshrined in law through next October. And, despite their reticence, the neighborhood's business owners and residents are lining up behind the effort. That's because Hales' ordinance, as first reported on Blogtown, makes it clear that the city is open to experimenting with the project—which could include desired changes like shrinking the closures or opening up certain lanes to cars.

"Gotta start somewhere," says Dan Lenzen, co-owner of Dixie Tavern, who has helped organize bar and restaurant owners who oppose the closures. DVH

PORTLAND CITY COUNCIL is scrambling to proactively pass a sales tax on medical and recreational marijuana before the end of October—in case voters pass a legalization measure next month that would preempt local revenue collection mechanisms.

The proposed tax is headed for its first hearing in front of the council on Wednesday, October 15, and could be up for a vote as soon as October 22. Revenue estimates released by the city suggest the tax might raise between $1.7 million and $4 million annually, assuming Oregon approves Measure 91, legalizing recreational marijuana sales, on November 4.

City officials argue legalization will bring regulatory and police costs much like those associated with bars and liquor stores—and it wants some cash, it says, to help defray that expense. Under the mechanism up for discussion, sales associated with recreational pot would be taxed at 10 percent, while medical pot would be taxed at five percent.

Taxing medical pot hasn't been without controversy, in that it raises a hurdle for patients who might be disabled or living on fixed incomes. But officials at a council work session have argued it's necessary to keep people from registering with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to avoid paying the recreational tax.

Portland would join several other Oregon cities in taxing pot—and all of them could face some kind of lawsuit over their tax plans. It's yet to be determined whether Measure 91, if it passes, would not only ban future tax levies, but also cancel out current ones.

(UPDATE! During its meeting Wednesday, October 15, the council agreed to drop plans to tax medical marijuana—deciding, instead, to first ask the Legislature to pass tighter controls on medical pot.) DENIS C. THERIAULT