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Big Rainstorm Results in Little Sewer Overflow

Portland’s respite from apocalyptic weather news continues: The deluge of rain that hit the city last weekend produced little flooding and only one, local overflow of sewage into the Willamette River.

The second combined sewage overflow (CSO) of the year occurred early Saturday morning, shutting down part of the Willamette River for recreational use due to the dangerous bacteria that can be found in the sewage system. But you probably weren’t planning on a swim at that time: The overflow lasted from 1:30 am to 1:40 am near the St. Johns neighborhood in North Portland.

The volume of the overflow is not currently known, says the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which prior to the cold front had issued pleas for residents to unclog their storm drains.

The first large rainfall of the season typically carries three concerns: floods, sewer overflows and landslides. But Hannah Schafer of PBOT says Portland had “no reports [of flooding] that rose to the level of anything major.” She knew of no landslide reports, either.

The limited scale of problems stemming from the storm is thanks in part to The Big Pipe project. That sewer overhaul, completed in 2011, has decreased the number of overflows to the Willamette River by 94%. When once there was an average of 50 overflows a year, there is now an average of only four every rainy season and once every three summers.

This storm is a striking example of how well the Big Pipe project has worked. One-tenth of an inch used to be enough to cause sewer overflows. This storm consisted of 2.45 inches of rain, more than 20 times that amount, and only caused one overflow.

“Our investments are working,” says Diane Dulken, the Communications Director of the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. “The river is clean enough to swim and play most days of the year.”

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Oregon’s National Forests Are Beginning to Lift Campfire Restrictions

S’more season is officially back on, at a growing number of National Forests across the state.

Mount Hood National Forest, one of the most heavily used regions near the Portland metro area, announced today that it is lifting all fire restrictions. That means you can once again set a wood-burning blaze at your campsite for cooking and warmth starting Thursday, Sept. 23.

The agency says it is ending the burn ban thanks to a weekend of heavy rain, along with more forecasted showers and a general cooling trend as we head into fall.

Chainsaw use east of Highway 26 and Highway 35 is also permitted now that fire danger levels in that area have been downgraded, but there is a woodcutting window between 8 pm and 1 pm in order to minimize wildfire risk.

The Mount Hood National Forest joins several others in the decision to allow campers to set fires; including the Willamette National Forest in the Central Cascade Range, the Siuslaw National Forest, which stretches from the edge of the Willamette Valley to the Pacific Ocean; Eastern Oregon’s Malheur National Forest; and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southern Washington. However, you should check each agency’s website for up-to-date and detailed information regarding burn regulations. For instance, in Malheur, campfires are only authorized in designated recreation sites; whereas in Siuslaw, they can be ignited at developed campgrounds, sand camps and when dispersed camping.

Strict fire rules went into effect throughout most of the state in June, brought about by a hazardous trifecta: a drier-than-average spring, a record-busting heat wave, and preexisting drought conditions.

The Oregon Department of Forestry ended up banning all campfires in state parks and state-managed forests east of Interstate 5. Online recreational groups noted throughout the summer that the restrictions appeared to lead to a rising number of reservation cancellations and no-shows at state parks, since sleeping under the stars without a robust heat source isn’t universally appealing.

But as restrictions ease, and people proceed with their toasted marshmallow traditions, fire officials want to stress that people continue to be careful with any possible ignition sources. The vegetation remains dry due to drought conditions and extremely high temperatures this summer.

Always have plenty of water and a shovel on hand when maintaining a campfire, and make sure the site is cool to the touch before leaving it unattended.

Related: The Oregon Department of Forestry Is Banning Campfires in All State Parks and Forestland East of I-5

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City Manager Names Interim Chief Joseph Chacon as Chief of Austin PD

APD veteran awaits City Council confirmation next week

APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon (Photo by John Anderson)

After officials in Boise, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, passed on the opportunity to make Joseph Chacon their new police chief in 2020 and 2021, respectively, City Manager Spencer Cronk has offered him the job here in Austin.

Chacon’s appointment, subject to City Council confirmation at its Sept. 30 meeting, concludes a six-month search process for former Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley’s successor following his retirement earlier this spring. In the wake of Manley’s exit, Chacon was named APD’s interim chief – a surprising move given department Chief of Staff Troy Gay’s next-in-line status.

Still, Cronk’s offer of the permanent position comes as even more of a surprise to some observers, on account of criminal justice advocates and some council members who had pressed the city manager to find an outside hire. That push, in part, came from the belief among criminal justice reformers that an APD veteran like Chacon, who has more than two decades of experience at the department, would be too close to APD’s culture problems to bring about meaningful change.

Another reason reformers opposed an internal hire: Once Chacon is confirmed by Council, he can’t be fired from the job. That’s due to state law that allows a city manager to only demote – but not terminate – a public safety chief hired internally. It’s one reason why Manley held on to his job last year amidst the immense public pressure he and Cronk fell under after APD’s violent response to Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

Be that as it may, some advocates have been impressed by Chacon’s performance as interim chief, and there is hope that he will commit to Council’s vision to “reimagine public safety.”

In a statement, Chacon said, “I am extremely excited and humbled by this amazing opportunity. Austin PD is at a critical juncture, and I am honored that the City Manager is showing the trust in me to lead this amazing organization.”

Critical juncture is right – APD is enduring high rates of attrition while activists continue to press for a “reimagined” approach to public safety, with less emphasis on police patrol and more resources for alternative responses. Chacon will have to walk a fine line navigating the demands of each constituency.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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The Nabisco Strike Grew Radical—Then Ended in Compromise. How Do Portland Bakers Feel?

By most accounts, the strike by bakers of Ritz crackers along Northeast Columbia Boulevard gained national prominence after a gift of oranges and bananas.

The fruit donor was Jamie Partridge, a retired mail carrier who cut his teeth with organized labor by leading rallies against the dismantling of the U.S. Postal Service by Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Partridge, 72, arrived at the picket lines Aug. 10, the day the strike began, with a basket of oranges. He saw, in the Nabisco workers’ demands for a better contract from owner Mondelez International, the seeds for a larger revolt.

“If Jamie hadn’t walked by one day and seen us, I don’t know if we would’ve gotten this big,” says Donna Marks, a member of the bakers’ union. “We were so tired of doughnuts, and then he came along and brought fruit.”

That’s a metaphor: Members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 364 now refer to Partridge as “the man who bore fruit.” He brought politicians, too, and Teamsters, and the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Within two weeks, Partridge moved an obscure struggle for health care coverage and overtime pay into the national spotlight—providing the latest chance for Portlanders to pit their progressive values against corporate America.

“These manufacturing strikes with huge multinational corporations, you’ve got to hit them really hard for a period of time before they cave,” Partridge says.

But it was their union brothers and sisters in other cities who pulled the plug on the standoff.

The monthlong strike came to an end on Saturday—against the will of most Portland workers—when fellow bakers’ union members across the country voted overwhelmingly in favor of adopting the proposed contract that union representatives and Mondelez had drafted during bargaining.

Most Portland union members who struck outside the bakery—just around 200 total—voted against the contract on Sept. 16. They’re still unhappy with its creation of weekend crews that will take overtime opportunities away from weekday workers.

Those Portlanders were the holdout amid a sea of nearly 1,000 bakers’ union members at striking facilities across the country, most of whom cheered the contract.

This week, Portland bakers return to the company they’ve been fighting for over a month.

“I’m going to go in there and do the same job as I’ve always done,” says Local 364 vice president Mike Burlingham. “But we’re going to hold them at arm’s length.”

Reconciliation may prove difficult, after the bakers found themselves caught between provocative tactics by outside activists and a physical crackdown by a strikebreaking crew their bosses hired.

Burlingham feels it’s a bittersweet end. “It’s like dealing with a bully. He’s going to keep pushing you around until you hit him back,” Burlingham says. “Symbolically, it took on a lot of meaning for us and everyone in the working class.”

Portland’s strike wasn’t just the kindling for a nationwide picket—it was far more intense than similar strikes at four other Nabisco facilities.

Two weeks into the strike, bakers’ union members set up by railroad tracks near the factory to stop incoming supply trains carrying oil, flour and sugar from reaching the bakery. Eventually, Portland police kicked strikers off of the Mondelez-owned land.

Outside supporters of the strike soon intensified tactics by blocking vans carrying strikebreaking workers to and from the bakery. They also routinely blocked vans from entering and leaving a parking lot Mondelez had leased miles away, often clashing with security guards hired by the strike staffing company Huffmaster Crisis Response.

Two weeks into the strike, outside protesters set off their car horns and alarms outside of a hotel at midnight where strikebreakers were lodged.

Partridge knew he could bring in outside protesters and advocacy groups to attempt tactics the bakers’ union could get in legal trouble for: “We can wink, nod with union leadership, and go off and do our thing.”

Union members think those outside protesters made Mondelez pay attention: “They’ll get in your face and tell you how to feel. Especially here in Portland, I believe it was a huge boost to getting the company to come to the table,” says Burlingham.

Eddie Mayagoitia, a union member, calls the protesters’ actions “a little extra.”

“Things started getting a little out of control, and we had a plan to meet with Mondelez already,” Mayagoitia says, but adds, “I’m glad some of the things that were happening got people’s attention. If not, there’s just some people standing out there with signs.”

Partridge also took less dramatic steps. He helped build a crowdfunding campaign that supplied $200 a week to each Portland bakers’ union member. And he directed strikers to take their picket line to grocery stores, demonstrating against the offshoring of products they baked, like Ritz crackers and Oreo cookies.

Perhaps most notably, he recruited nearly every prominent Portland Democratic officeholder to the picket line.

He called Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who marched alongside strikers to the nearby Fred Meyer to chant outside. Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty made an impassioned speech about the power of labor unions; state Rep. Khanh Pham, Sen. Lew Frederick and Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal all joined picketers outside the bakery.

“Having politicians headline rallies catches the media,” Partridge says. “But also, politicians want to be seen. It works both ways.”

Hardesty said she would stand with the union again: “Anytime a group of workers collectively organize and decide to strike, it is significant for our labor movement because an injury to one is an injury to all.”

National workers experienced little of this. They broke with Portlanders because they felt Mondelez’s latest offer met most of the union’s demands: It offered the same health care plan as before and doubled the company’s 401(k) match. It increased disability benefits and offered first dibs on weekend schedules to existing workers. It wasn’t perfect, they conceded, but it was acceptable.

But workers in places like Richmond, Va., didn’t experience the crackdown Mondelez attempted in Portland.

During the last few weeks of the strike, protesters and members of other unions supporting the bakers alleged that security guards hired by Mondelez were getting violent: pushing, shoving and threatening them while they blocked incoming vans and buses. A Teamster named Jesse Dreyer even filed a federal lawsuit, alleging assault by a security guard who squashed him up against a van for several minutes and struck him repeatedly.

Jesus Martinez, president of the local bakers’ union, hints at the distrust a month of confrontation has planted in Nabisco workers.

“It’s still going to be a fight for four years,” Martinez says. “Even though the company says they want it to be harmonious, that’s if they respect the contract. But they never have and they never will.”

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More changes at the top for Chicago-area theaters

For over a year, Chicago theaters—large, midsize, and small—have been announcing major changes in leadership. Some have been fraught with public controversy, like the departures of David Zak at PrideArts and Michael Halberstam from Writers Theatre. Others have been the natural result of companies reevaluating their missions and future plans and finding new leadership to help them grow, as with Marti Lyons at Remy Bumppo and the team of Lorena Diaz and Wendy Mateo at Teatro Vista.

Last week, perhaps the biggest announcement of all came in: Robert Falls, who has been artistic director at the Goodman Theatre for 35 years, will step down from the job next summer. He’ll program the 2022-23 season, for which he plans to direct two shows. Goodman’s executive director, Roche Schulfer, will stay on at least through the transition, and a search for Falls’s replacement will be underway shortly.

Falls’s long-running tenure included the Goodman’s move from its first home at the School of the Art Institute (where the modern wing of the museum now stands) to the Goodman complex on Dearborn Street; the creation of an artistic collective including directors, performers, and writers such as Mary Zimmerman, Regina Taylor, and the late Brian Dennehy (a frequent Falls collaborator whose performance in the director’s production of Death of a Salesman won Tony Awards in 1999 for both of them); and a focus on developing new work in addition to staging reimagined classics. In an interview with Chris Jones of the Tribune, Falls noted, “I am not planning on going fishing in Florida,” and held out the possibility of freelancing at theaters in Chicago and elsewhere after departing the Goodman.

But while Falls is getting ready to leave his artistic home, Ericka Ratcliff is getting ready to come back to hers. Earlier this week, Ratcliff was announced as the new artistic director at Congo Square Theatre, making her only the fourth person to hold that title in the company’s 22-year history and the first woman.

A longtime Congo Square ensemble member who made her company debut in their 2006 premiere of Lydia Diamond’s Stickfly, Ratcliff is also an emeritus ensemble member of House Theatre of Chicago (their new artistic director, Lanisse Antoine Shelley, credited Ratcliff with encouraging her to seek that role) and an artistic associate at Lookingglass Theatre. A graduate of Roosevelt University, Ratcliff has been living in Los Angeles and Atlanta in recent years. But she notes that the combination of Congo Square hiring Charlique C. Rolle as executive director last summer and the company’s renewed collaboration in building future plans during the COVID-19 shutdown led to her decision.

“Week after week we were together planning and organizing in a way that honestly I had never experienced at Congo Square,” says Ratcliff. “Because so many of the ensemble members were so far apart and had moved to LA and had moved to New York and were working out of town regionally.” (Cofounder Derrick Sanders is now the associate director of the drama division at the Juilliard School in New York.) She adds, “The silver lining of the pandemic was that I was able to contribute again. And I stepped in to be a coordinator and associate for our community engagement and education department. And it just lit me up again the way that working for the company, when I was in Chicago, did.”

Congo Square has been without a permanent artistic director since the death of Samuel Roberson at age 34 in 2017. During the shutdown, the company has focused on digital offerings, like the virtual sketch comedy series Hit ‘Em on the Blackside (launching its second season on October 29) and the current audio serial drama, The Clinic (running through October 10), set at a medical facility where promising breakthroughs in mental health medication for Black patients collide with personal conflicts and hidden agendas. 

Ratcliff is excited to be coming back to Chicago at a time when so many companies have gone through a changing of the guard (including several new Black leaders). “I’m such a fan of so many of the folks who are taking over,” she says, citing Audrey Francis and Glenn Davis at Steppenwolf, Regina Victor at Sideshow, and Ken-Matt Martin at Victory Gardens in addition to Shelley at House and Rolle. 

“Having so many players at the table to support common goals was a big reason why I was open to stepping back in to work with Congo Square and now be artistic director,” Ratcliff says. “You can’t do it on your own, right? You have to do it in support of a common goal. Every interview, every piece of planning that these great leaders and new leaders are doing, I’m so turned on by it and really excited about the possibility of collaborating and working with them.” 

And while Ratcliff would love to see currently-itinerant Congo Square have a permanent home, she notes that the company’s mission (“producing transformative work rooted in the African Diaspora”) will continue. “Let’s just say we’re staying open [to possibilities], but planning for either/or—moreso the either, which is ‘Yes, space, please,’” says Ratcliff. But the space she envisions for Congo Square is one that is “all-encompassing within the community, that is a rehearsal space, office space, performance space. We have irons in the fires in different ways of making that a possibility.”

Shake-up at Metropolis

Joe Keefe, who has been the executive director at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights for almost seven years, is out. As reported by Barbara Vitello in the Daily Herald on Monday, Metropolis board president Stephen Daday declined to comment on the reasons, other than to say “there has been an investigation, and it has been concluded.” Presumably, the investigation was sparked by incidents described in an open letter by Lauren Berman, a former resident director at Metropolis, published September 14 on the site Rescripted

Berman took note of many allegations of inappropriate and intimidating behavior on the part of Keefe as well as poor management practices overall (including sets and prop pieces arriving late in the rehearsal process) at the nonprofit 329-seat theater. The Metropolis houses a performing arts school in addition to offering a full slate of theater, music, and comedy. Though it went through some rough financial times in the past, Daday told Vitello that the organization has been on sound financial footing since 2015.

In a follow-up interview with Vitello, Keefe claimed, “None of the issues that appear online [in Berman’s post] were raised through the normal concern resolution process.” But he did say that he had “distressed” one of his staff during July and August, when the accusations against him first started percolating through anonymous e-mails circulated to people in the theater community. “I did not intend to distress anyone though I did, and I take responsibility for that incident,” he told Vitello. Associate artistic director Sabrina Odigie and executive operations director Brookes Ebetsch will handle the day-to-day operations at Metropolis while a search for a new executive director takes place.

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Bridgeport needs a bookstore

Bridgeport is finally getting a bookstore. At the moment, neighborhood residents like myself have to travel to Pilsen or Hyde Park to get our fix. But a month or two from now, we’ll be able to walk into a store on Halsted stocked with some 60,000 hardcovers and paperbacks, on every subject imaginable. I can’t wait.

Joe Judd has a place of honor in Chicago bookstore history. As a cofounder of Myopic Books some 30 years ago, he helped transform Wicker Park into a desired destination for both Chicagoans and visitors from all over. 

A good bookstore is a cultural hub that exerts a magnetic pull on people who want more out of life than to just go through the motions. Myopic has had several addresses but has always been one of the focal points of the community. Judd hopes his new store, dubbed Tangible Books by his wife and business partner, Lisa, will have a similarly inspirational, transformative effect on Bridgeport.

Judd’s path back to Chicago has been circuitous. He sold Myopic about 12 years ago and moved to a farm in Arkansas to raise his daughters. Several years later, he moved again to the area where he was raised, around Charleston, Illinois, and opened a bookstore. He named it Bob’s Bookstore after his father (a local fixture) and the business thrived until the onset of COVID-19. When the opportunity arose for his daughters to attend a well-rated school in Chicago, Judd decided to move back to town. With the help of his old friend Ed Marszewski of Maria’s and Marz Brewing, Judd found a storefront location on Halsted near 33rd Street.

You might ask why anyone would open a used bookstore in 2021. Most titles that Judd will stock are likely available somewhere online, at even lower prices than the reasonable ones Tangible will surely offer. If your mission is purely a transactional one, then a sprawling, subjectively-organized labyrinth of bookshelves will not be your best bet. If, however, you’re interested in the unexpected discovery and an experience put together by a human being rather than an algorithm, then Tangible Books will doubtless soon be one of your favorite destinations in the city.

Judd tells me over the phone that he depends heavily on his customers to dictate the direction and shape his bookstores take. A customer will come in and ask for something Judd has never heard of. That will send him down a rabbit hole that may result in a whole new section being added to the stacks. Judd credits his wife Lisa for the wide-ranging cooking section in his current store and expects Tangible to reflect the Bridgeport community, as the store becomes a mainstay along the area’s central commercial strip. He will be sharing the block with a couple Chinese restaurants, a junk shop, a hardware store, and various other commercial concerns. The neighborhood is in a process of transformation.

My guess is that this change will not go exactly the same way it did in Wicker Park when Judd opened his first bookstore, but without doubt, his new store will have an effect on the character of Bridgeport. A bookstore signals to passersby that the locals have curiosity and some measure of intellect. It welcomes visitors, telling them by its presence that we want them to spend some time exploring here, rather than to merely lighten their wallets.

Before any of this can happen, Judd must build new shelves, buy signage, and transport his massive stock from Charleston. He’s started a GoFundMe campaign in order to help defray the costs of this massive undertaking. He tells me he’s hoping to open his doors as early as October. But there’s a ton of work to do before that happens. He’s been shuttling back and forth between Chicago and Charleston for weeks. His family has found a home a few blocks from the store, and his daughters have started their school year.

When I ask Judd his favorite kind of book, he says modern fiction, but struggles to come up with a title. The first one that pops into his head is Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms, a popular 2011 children’s book by Lissa Evans that one of his daughters brought him recently. It’s a telling example of how his mind works. Asked to name a personal preference, he defers to one introduced to him by someone else. He’s open and curious about what moves those around him. 

This is why I know Tangible Books will fill a need in my neighborhood and we’ll have a big say in the shape that the store takes. No one can entirely predict the character an area in economic and demographic flux, like Bridgeport is now, will ultimately take. But the type of bookstore Joe Judd helped originate can’t help but make a place more attractive in multiple ways. I’ll be one of the first ones through the door when he flips his sign to “OPEN.”

Those interested in supporting Tangible Books can contribute to the online fundraiser at GoFundMe.

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Anyone Can Thrive at PSU. Here’s How.

Sponsored content presented by Portland State University

Sharon Samuel’s dream of a college education took a backseat for more than 40 years while she raised her five sons. This year, at age 60, she completed her bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Portland State University.

PSU’s flexible online degree program helped her overcome another hurdle: caring for family members who had COVID-19.

Like Samuel, many college students have experienced extra challenges during the pandemic, such as family obligations, health issues and financial troubles. PSU makes it possible for them to succeed in college with flexible remote classes, academic support and scholarships.

“You’re going to have hiccups in life; that’s just a part of it.” said Samuel. “But the online program at PSU was phenomenal. The professors were right there when you needed them, and you could do your work on your own time. They encouraged me to continue even though I was having family issues.”

All students are welcome at Portland State, whether they are enrolling right after high school or returning to college years later. Here are some ways that PSU has created an environment where anyone can thrive.

Empowering students with diverse backgrounds and needs

PSU has expanded its programs to support a diverse mix of students and give them greater flexibility because of COVID-19, including:

  • Four Years Free, which covers tuition and fees for eligible Oregon high school graduates.
  • EMPOWER, designed for first-generation, Asian and Pacific Islander students entering college for the first time.
  • Transfers Finish Free, which allows eligible Oregon transfer students to complete their degrees without paying standard tuition and fees.
  • Attend Anywhere, a new class format with both in-person meetings and remote options.

As a first-generation student, Japhety Ngabireyimana serves as an inspiration to family members and others looking to enter college. He credits PSU with making it easier to transition into college life.

“When I first started as a freshman I was really scared in terms of navigating the school and everything, but the staff and programs offered have made it feel like a second home, so it’s been a good experience for me,” he said.

Ngabireyimana grew up in a Tanzanian refugee camp and moved to Portland when he was eight years old. He is studying business. with support from a full-tuition academic scholarship.

Helping students connect with a community on campus

As a freshman entering college in 2019, Ngabireyimana received tuition help, peer mentors, and assistance with scholarships in PSU’s EMPOWER program. “The program helped me build a family and community before school even started,” he said. “We had weekly check-ins with our mentors to make sure we were on track. PSU also has a variety of clubs for African, Asian, Hispanic students, etc., which has helped us find a way to connect with each other.”

Welcoming more transfer students than any college in Oregon

Transferring from one college to another can be daunting. Yet at PSU, it doesn’t have to be. PSU makes the transfer experience easy and affordable.

The Transfers Finish Free program eases the financial burden for eligible Oregon transfer students by covering standard tuition and mandatory fees. And the Transfer & Returning Student Resource Center provides advising, workshops and events to help students transition smoothly to PSU.

Kara Sydnor transferred to Portland State from Portland Community College (PCC) during the pandemic. She’s earning her bachelor’s degree in public health with a focus on community health promotions.

Despite pandemic challenges, Sydnor really enjoyed her remote classes last year.

“I think everyone should take a public health course at PSU,” she says. “It is such an affirming empowering place, where I feel like every instructor has met me with curiosity, provided space for me to express my unique lived experience, and really values what I bring to the class.”

Giving students career opportunities

For many students, it doesn’t get more exciting than having the chance to roll up their sleeves and apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a work environment.

PSU works with Greater Portland, Inc to identify which industries are experiencing growth in the region and align its academic programs with those sectors. Workforce Development opportunities include applied learning, internship and co-op programs that give students real-world experience. Students graduate better prepared to enter the workforce in industries like clean technology, health science and the media.

Ngabireyimana interned with software company Ride Report. Once he graduates, he plans to use the educational foundation he received at PSU to continue growing his bproud brand, which he launched to inspire people to be proud of their race, gender, sexuality and beliefs.

Offering flexible online programs

For working adults like Samuel, attending class on campus can be challenging. To accommodate those who need more flexibility, PSU offers online programs that allow students to work around their own schedule. “When you’ve got a full-time job and a family, sometimes attending class in person is not an option,” she said. “I think everyone should try taking at least one or two online classes to get a feel for it, because it will change your perspective.”

As the first in her family to earn a college degree, Samuel is now a role model for her nieces and nephews. “I tell them that they can do anything.”

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It’s Been 201 Days Since Investigations Began Into a Political Leak of Police Info

201 DAYS:

That’s how long it’s been since the Portland Police Bureau opened an internal affairs investigation into the leak of information that wrongly implicated Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty in a March 3 hit-and-run. It has released no results of its inquiry.

190 DAYS:

That’s how long ago Officer Brian Hunzeker resigned from his role as president of the Portland Police Association due to what the union described as a “serious, isolated mistake related to the Police Bureau’s investigation into the alleged hit-and-run by Commissioner Hardesty.” We still don’t know what he did. The mayor’s office says it doesn’t know what he did. Hunzeker has been on paid administrative leave since May 27.

189 DAYS:

That’s how long it’s been since the city signed a contract with an outside investigative firm to probe the leak.

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The Saga of the Joyce Hotel Shows the Difficulty of Producing Affordable Housing

In June 2016, Portland officials announced the purchase of an imperiled flophouse called the Joyce Hotel.

Located in the newly trendy West End at 322 SW 11th Ave., the Joyce and its ragtag clientele no longer fit the neighborhood. Gentrification beckoned and property owner Dan Zilka responded by serving his tenants eviction notices.

The Portland City Council arrived to save the day—and preserve one of downtown’s last single-room occupancy hotels.

“I am very pleased that the Joyce Hotel will remain open so that some of the most vulnerable people in our community will have a safe place to go, rather than being out on the street,” then-Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman said.

Much has happened since. The Trump presidency. A pandemic. Voter approval of three housing and social services measures to collect a total north of $3 billion to aid people living on the margins.

What hasn’t happened: the reopening of the Joyce.

If all goes well, contractors will start renovating the 109-year-old hotel by year’s end. The building will offer 66 refurbished studio apartments in January 2023, after nearly seven years and the expenditure of $25.1 million. That equates to $398,000 per unit, or $1,198 per square foot.

“That’s a ridiculous amount of time,” says Jessie Burke, who, along with her husband, Jonathan Cohen, renovated the more venerable Society Hotel in Old Town. “And it’s really expensive.”

It is, however, not unique in Portland’s development of affordable housing.

On Sept. 20, the Bravo Youth Orchestras serenaded city and nonprofit leaders gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking at 3000 SE Powell Blvd., where a 206-unit affordable housing complex will be built.

Mayor Ted Wheeler called the project, which will replace the Safari Club strip joint on the property, “a shining example of Portlanders standing together.”

It has followed a timeline similar to that for redeveloping the Joyce Hotel. The City Council voted to purchase the Powell property on Aug. 9, 2017. The Portland Housing Bureau says construction will take another 23 months—so move-in will begin in October 2023, six years after the land purchase.

Like the Joyce Hotel, which will serve tenants experiencing mental illness and substance abuse, the Powell project will include 30 units with “wrap-around services” for Portlanders dealing with similar challenges.

The need for such housing is obvious: Construction of new, low-income apartments is needed to reduce the number of people sleeping outdoors. But the pace at which the Joyce Hotel renovation and construction on the Powell project have proceeded has not kept pace with new arrivals to Portland, and appears outmatched by a wave of impending evictions.

One look at the Joyce’s timeline (see below) reveals a pair of gaps during which little happened. After Portland voters approved a $258 million affordable housing bond in 2016, three years passed before city officials awarded a nonprofit developer rights to the Joyce project.

Another two years have elapsed since then, with still no construction underway.

Housing Bureau spokeswoman Martha Calhoon says there are a number of reasons the project has moved so slowly. First, the city bought the building to preserve low-income housing but lacked money for renovation. It would have to find a partner. “At the time of purchase, no funding had been identified for future redevelopment,” Calhoon says.

The Joyce needed seismic work, a new elevator and much more. But the work would have to be done within strict constraints. “The building’s designation as a historic landmark creates additional challenges for the redevelopment timeline,” Calhoon says. “Under other circumstances, a building in similar condition would likely be demolished and replaced with a completely new structure.”

Scraping together the financing took time. After the city made some money available in October 2019, the developer it selected, Community Partners for Affordable Housing, had to combine that cash with funding from five other sources.

Expensive construction for tenants who have little income is a hard sell for investors. Arranging tax credit financing, the biggest chunk of capital ($9.3 million) is an arduous process. That’s a big part of why the hotel has stood empty since 2017.

To be sure, the project is complex. Critics are nonetheless frustrated.

John Russell, a downtown developer and property owner, acknowledges he’s not in the affordable housing business, but his past service on the board of Prosper Portland, the city’s Planning and Sustainability Commission, and the Oregon Transportation Commission has given him perspective on public construction.

“What’s missing at the city and the county is any sense of urgency,” says Russell. “There’s just a sense of complacency about how long things take—I don’t’ think Vera Katz would have put up with it.”

Wheeler deferred questions about why projects take so long to Portland Housing Bureau director Shannon Callahan.

“Each of these projects comes with its own challenges,” Callahan says. The Powell property includes a gully that decades ago was filled in with trash, she says. That makes the ground unstable. In addition, in order to expand the project, the developer Home Forward acquired an adjacent property, which took more time.

She notes the Housing Bureau can move quickly when projects are in less-developed areas. A 60-unit bureau-funded project called Cedar Commons opened this year at 11450 SE Division St., just two years after it was announced. Unlike the Joyce Hotel and Powell projects, which rely heavily on tax credit investors, the city paid for most of Cedar Commons.

“There was no leverage in that deal,” Callahan says.

Critics of the city’s strategy want faster solutions. One way that can work: The Joint Office of Homeless Services recently used state and federal COVID bailout money to purchase a 43-room Motel 6 in East Multnomah County for $4.95 million—that’s $115,000 a unit, less than a third of the Joyce Hotel’s cost. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison—the Joyce will far outlast the Motel 6—but the years the Joyce spent vacant are time and money wasted and more nights spent on the streets for Portland’s homeless.

Mike Wilkerson, a housing economist at ECONorthwest, says the long development time and high per-unit costs of some city projects means the buildings help relatively few people.

He suggests a different approach: “Rent vouchers should be considered as part of the solution,” Wilkerson says. “They could yield immediate benefits to more households and incentivize the development of additional properties. This is a near-term action that directly benefits families and moves us in the right direction for long-run solutions (more housing).”

Old Joyce

A timeline of the acquisition and development of the Joyce Hotel.

Oct. 7, 2015

The Portland City Council declares a housing emergency.

Dec. 31, 2015

Dan Zilka, who then owned the Joyce, posts 90-day eviction notices for the building’s tenants.

June 2016

After first bidding for the property in March 2016, the city announces it will purchase the hotel for $4.22 million.

Nov. 8, 2016

Portland voters approve a $258 million bond to build, buy or renovate affordable housing.

October 2017

The last remaining tenant moves out of the Joyce.

October 2019

Community Partners for Affordable Housing and Carleton Hart Architecture are awarded rights and funding to redevelop the Joyce.

December 2021

Construction is scheduled to begin and last for 13 months.

January 2023

The Portland Housing Bureau expects new tenants to begin occupying the building.