Points of the Day

March 10, 2010

Urban renewal in the Portland area sees changes at Airport Way and a major project suspension in Oregon City, and Ted Wheeler's sudden appointment as treasurer creates a wave of last-minute candidacy filings.

Candidates rush to file

Following Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler's sudden appointment as interim state treasurer, several candidates rushed to join Wheeler in the race for the position.

Former Treasurer Jim Hill, Sen. Rick Metsger and Sen Chris Telfer also filed for the seat during the last hours of filing day.

Wheeler's sudden rise in state politics created a domino effect in Multnomah County, where two well-known local political figures -- former state Sen. Margaret Carter and county Commissioner Jeff Cogen -- and two others filed to become the county's chief executive. And Cogen's old seat in turn attracted 10 contenders.

"It has been the most bizarre and unexpected 48 hours that I've experienced in politics," said Ben Unger, who heads the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund. "The things that happened will affect the state for a long time."

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

Oregon lacks rail funding

State officials say Oregon will fall behind Washington in the push to build high-speed passenger railroads unless Oregon finds more stable funding.

Washington received $590 million in federal stimulus funds for its high-speed rail projects in January; Oregon only received $8 million.

The reason is clear...Having spent more of its own money than Oregon to prepare for high-speed rail, Washington had several shovel-ready projects that attracted the federal stimulus funds, said Kelly Taylor, the railroad administrator in the Oregon Department of Transportation.

This year, the federal government will require states to contribute 20 cents of every dollar for high-speed rail projects, she said.

Read the full story at The Register-Guard.

Union workers increase

The percentage of unionized workers in Oregon reached 17% last year, up from 16.6% in 2008. The number has risen in each of the past three years.

Last year's increase also reflects heavier job losses in the private sector compared to the public sector.

The increase in the percentage of union workers in Oregon, while the actual number has declined, could be due to where job losses are occurring, said David Kong, statistician with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Industries that are not heavily unionized have lost more jobs than the public sector, which tends to be heavily unionized, he said. For instance, manufacturing jobs declined 11.6 percent and jobs in logging and mining declined 21.2 percent in 2009, while public sector jobs declined just 0.9 percent, he said.

Read the full story at The Register-Guard.

Airport Way area may shrink

The Portland City Council is considering shrinking the Airport Way urban renewal area — one of Portland's largest — by almost a third.

The 870 acres that may be removed can be applied to an urban renewal area elsewhere.

...Portland is now bumping up against an urban renewal ceiling: State law requires that renewal areas take up no more than 15 percent of the total area of cities such as Portland. Portland has only 700 acres left before it hits 15 percent.

That limit has caused officials at the Portland Development Commission to take another look at Airport Way. And much of the land in the renewal area either can’t be developed or probably won’t, said Bob Alexander, special projects manager with the PDC.

Read the full story at the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Oregon City complex halted

The developer of The Rivers, the proposed retail-entertainment-office complex in Oregon City, is suspending the project due to concerns about support from city officials.

With two supporters leaving office and another two opposing the project, the developer says the project will be reassessed after the November election.

As recently as a few weeks ago, [CenterCal CEO Fred Bruning] sounded excited by the prospects of building in Oregon City, saying prospective tenants wanted to be there and that his company believes that The Rivers was "the right project at the right time."

CenterCal has spent more than four years on the project, investing millions of dollars in preparing the site, which is the location of former old Rossman Landfill. "We have worked diligently to overcome the various obstacles posed by one of the most challenging sites we have ever faced," Bruning wrote in his letter.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

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