Yes, It Could Happen Here

The geyser that erupted last month on NE Skidmore was caused by a break in a hundred-years plus, thirty-inch diameter water pipe and could happen anywhere.

While this was the largest main break in Portland’s recent history, the city experiences some two hundred main breaks per year within its 2200 miles of pipe, says spokesperson Jaymee Cuti. “We can not predict where or when the next break will happen,” she said. About ten miles of pipe are replaced annually.

Aging pipes are certainly at risk of failure especially in century old neighborhoods like those in SE. Soil, water temperature, and corrosion can also be factors. The pipe in NE, however, was thick and not corroded.

Other similar size cities have it worse. Cuti says our area’s low-corrosive soil keeps the pipe failure rate relatively low.

“We ask that customers be our eyes and ears. If you spot a main break, please call our Emergency Line, 503.823.4874.”

Schools Face Challenges, but Kids are Okay

Even without cuts in state educational funding, flat school budgets will likely mean teacher layoffs.

Portland Public School parents recently received a disturbing letter from the Superintendent forecasting a $17 million budget gap for next year due to higher costs of Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) obligations;  reduced funding due to lower numbers of English Language Learners, and  declining poverty rates in the district.

Ongoing maintenance needs, salary increases and what an aide calls administrative fat in the central office may also be factors.

Cuts could hit inner SE sporadically with schools in the Cleveland cluster potentially hit hard. A visit to several area schools netted varying degrees of alarm with one proactively planning ways to do more with less. By contrast, shiny new Franklin is experiencing burgeoning enrollment that may shield it from cutbacks.

Meanwhile students themselves have shown exceptional leadership skills as they take on climate, security and human rights issues that stymie their elders.

Police Shortage Worsens 

Despite entry level salary boosts, historically high numbers of Portland police recruits leave the force before their two-year training and probation period ends. In addition, another fifty more officers are due to retire this summer.

As a result, Portland’s police shortage grows worse daily even though 911 calls have increased by 25% in five years.

Negativity about police has morale at an all-time low.  “A little bit of appreciation can go a long way,” said an officer.

By David Krogh

Rent Control Adopted

National media has been touting Oregon as the first state in the nation to adopt statewide rent control.  In actuality, what Governor Brown signed into action February 28 is not rent control per se. Rather it is a means to limit rent gouging, a serious problem, especially in the Portland area.

Senate Bill 608 sailed through the Democrat-controlled Oregon Legislature and was the first bill signed into law during the 2019 legislative session. It caps how much landlords can raise rents, and, makes it harder for them to evict tenants without cause. It does not, however, establish base rents or provide specific caps other than for rent increases.

Under the measure, landlords statewide can now raise rents no more than seven percent per year, plus the annual change in the consumer price index.  The sum of these is roughly ten per cent per year.

The bill includes an exemption for rental properties less than fifteen years old. It limits a landlord’s ability to evict tenants without a reason after they have lived at a property for a year.

Landlords can still evict tenants for cause if they violate the terms of their lease. Landlords may also evict renters without cause at the end of their first year of tenancy with ninety days notice.

The only problem appears to be in enforcement. No state agency is responsible for this, so tenants would need to take a noncompliant landlord to court for restitution.

According to Speaker Kotek’s office, the only role for a state agency in the law is for the Department of Administrative Services, which is required to post the annual allowable rent increase for landlords.

The Oregon Law Center has resources available about how the law works at this link: bit.ly/2HBXMVY.

The City of Portland additionally has tenant protections in place which, if violated, require the landlord to pay the tenant for relocation.  Enforcement for that is also via court process. The City Housing Bureau has an information page at  portlandoregon.gov/phb/74544.

An article posted in The Oregonian March 18 indicates Portland’s tenant protection program may be in jeopardy because of a Multnomah County Circuit Court determination that the City is not lawfully able to provide rent control provisions. (bit.ly/2FmUxOC).

Finally, a non-profit tenant advocacy group, the Community Alliance of Tenants is available to help educate and advise tenants as to their rights and options. Their website link is: oregoncat.org. The phone is 503.288.0130.

PBOT Intersection Modifications Causing Concerns

PBOT is in the process of providing modifications to SE Lincoln and Harrison Streets from SE 60th west into Ladd’s Addition as part of their change of designation to a Neighborhood Greenway. The project intent is to greatly limit vehicle use while adding bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

One of the locations is providing concerns for several drivers and neighbors.

The signalized intersection at SE 50th and Lincoln used to provide left, right and through movements.  PBOT has, however, placed barriers at the intersection so that no left or through movements are now permitted.

Through movements on Lincoln are only permitted by pedestrians and bicycles.  Vehicles now must cut through narrow neighborhood streets in order to access both sides of Lincoln and cannot turn left either onto Lincoln or 50th.

The Southeast Examiner contacted PBOT’s project manager Sheila Parrott for an explanation and was told the status of Lincoln has changed and the project is following the allowed standards of the Neighborhood Greenway designation.

Southeast Examiner staff scoped the intersection on different days and observed several potential problems.

Signage announcing the movement changes was lacking or insufficient. Large bollards placed in the intersection make it near impossible for large vehicles to turn safely from Lincoln onto 50th.

On one occasion, a Trimet LIFT vehicle was seen doing a U-turn in Lincoln St. as the driver noticed left turns onto SE 50th were no longer permitted.

On another occasion several full-sized school buses diverted down narrow neighborhood streets because they, too, could no longer utilize the 50th and Lincoln intersection.

There was also an increase in traffic on SE Harrison carrying diversions from 50th.

PBOT’s official position is that increased bicycle improvements and traffic calming features that reduce vehicle speeds both help to reduce traffic congestion.

Individuals in the area were asked their opinions of the improvements and responses included more cons than pros.

Neighbor David Clark was opposed: “Portland’s solution to traffic congestion is to destroy the ability of drivers to get around.”

Foster Brookes thought the improvements “ruined what used to be a functional and safe signalized intersection.”

Jack Burns responded “It’s great for bikers.”

PBOT project information indicates traffic diversions caused by the modifications will be examined six months after completion to determine if mitigation is required.

If you have concerns, contact the project manager at Sheila.parrott@portlandoregon.gov. To report a traffic safety or maintenance concerns, see bit.ly/2HMo7zK or phone 503.823.SAFE.